Focus on Asia at WCAP 2011


The conference recognises the efforts of individuals of Asian origin in the field of psychiatry, writes PREETI JABBAL     

Melbourne city proudly hosted the 3rd World Conference of Asian Psychiatrists (WCAP) at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre recently. This conference brought together clinicians, professionals, researchers and educators on mental health from all parts of the world. The organisers of WCAP, along with the President Russell D’Souza, brought together an interesting and challenging group of speakers as well as a group of delegates who participated enthusiastically in the programme.

The congress theme was ‘Enhancing the Identity and Capacity of Asian Psychiatry- in the Pursuit of Excellence in Asian Psychiatry’. The aim was to address contemporary issues in Asian and world psychiatry generally, as well as focussing on emergent issues relevant to mental health while blending eastern wisdom with cutting edge western science. In addition, the Congress focused on stimulating programmes reflecting psychiatry from all regions of Asia and recognised the important contributions psychiatrists of Asian ancestry are making to this field around the world. The WCAP supported a wide and varied cultural programme in conjunction with this event.

The opening ceremony of the conference also saw the official launch of the Asian Young Psychiatrists Association Federation (AYPA). Young psychiatrists from Egypt, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Australia represented the AYPA and briefly touched on the framework of the new organisation. The decision was made to come together under the Federation to have better collaboration and facilitate research with the support of other organisations, and work together towards improved global mental health.

The inaugural keynote address was made by Prof Dilip Jeste President Elect, American Psychiatric Association, Director, Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging and Professor of Psychiatry & Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, USA. Prof Jeste spoke at length on the topic of ‘Wisdom: Cultural and Neurobiology Perspectives’. The gist of his interesting address was that aging is not all doom and gloom and that the mental health component actually improves with age. According to his research and a survey conducted on 340,000 Americans around the world it was found that while physical health and cognitive abilities are adversely affected with age, mental health surprisingly gets better from 50 onwards. Prof Jeste’s keynote address set the tone of the conference as it dwelled on the non-scientific concept of wisdom, concluding that social reasoning seems to improve with age despite a decline in fluid intelligence.

The opening ceremony was chaired by Prof. Rusell D’Souza President of WCAP 2011. His Presidential address was followed by a message fromProfessor Naotaka Shinfukufrom Japan, President of Asian Federation of Psychiatric Associations. The Hon Mary Woolridge MP, Minister for Community Services, Mental Health and Women’s Affairs, Victoria was the guest of honour. She was joined by Opposition leader the Hon Daniel Andrews, former Health Minister of Victoria. They delivered the opening address for the congress and cultural programme respectively. “Mental health is everybody’s business,” said Mr Andrews. “We are all involved and affected by mental health issues through personal diagnosis or family and friends. Hence this conference is a very important dialogue and cross cultural exchange of knowledge.” Mr. Andrews also acknowledged the contribution of international medical graduates and invited the participants of the conference to enjoy the multicultural atmosphere in Melbourne.

The inaugural event was conducted admirably by Prof Carlyle Perera from the Sri Lankan Doctors Association Australia. During the course of the evening, Prof Russell D’Souza announced citations for three members from the field of medicine. Renowned General Practitioner from Melbourne, current Chairman of the World Medical Association Council and recipient of the 2011 Australia Day honour (AO) Dr Mukesh Haikerwal’s contribution to the field of medicine was recognised. Prof Dinesh Bhugra UK, Vice President WCAP 2011 Congress, and Prof Dilip Jeste, expert on aging from San Diego, USA were also presented awards for their significant contributions to mental health.

An eclectic mix of performances from various Asian countries provided the entertainment for the evening. All the speakers were unanimous in their praise for Dr D’Souza and his team’s efforts in organising this major event. With nearly 800 participants, the WCAP conference came to a satisfying conclusion on August 4. According to Prof D’Souza, “The congress offered workshops on eastern traditions and models of meditation, mindfulness, well-being therapies and retreats in addition to the regular domains of psychiatry. There were workshops on writing for journals and manuscript preparation for publication. Accepted abstracts were published as a supplement of the Asian Journal of Psychiatry. There were also planned visit programmes to academic psychiatry, mental health care centres and facilities in Melbourne and Sydney.” With several symposia, lectures, training and teaching workshops, participants were spoilt for choice at this mental health feast.

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Preeti Jabbal
Preeti is the Melbourne Coordinator of Indian Link.