Global mental health and cultural psychiatry

Global mental health and cultural psychiatry

Conference Report

17th April 2013    Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine     QMUL

This one day international meeting began with a tribute to Dr Wen-Shing Tseng (1935-2012), founding president of the world association of cultural psychiatry and professor of psychiatry in Hawaii. He inspired generations of psychiatrists to consider culture in its full complexity.

A wonderful day included the Santander Lecture given by Professor Sergio Villasenor-Bayardo from Mexico followed by Dr Hans Rohlof from the Netherlands and Dr Micol Ascoli from Italy and the UK. Apart from cutting edge research presentations, there was an extensive and multi-layered debate about the relationship between cultural psychiatry and global mental health. Professor Dinesh Bhugra, president elect of the world psychiatric association, expressed marked reservations about global mental health movement as it seemed to be imposing models of mental health care on all world societies irrespective of local services, and beliefs and preferences for recovery and achieving wellbeing. The speakers debated and concluded that global mental health was a well-intentioned movement of policy makers and politicians, and endeavours to propose universal principles to improve mental health care were welcomed, but that prescriptive models of mental health care and the assumption that treatment was pharmacological were flawed. Service development, public empowerment and public health should be grounded in local realities and communities preferences rather than the product of a global policy. Global mental health movements were useful to protect vulnerable people with mental illness from inhumane treatments or no treatment, and for encouraging governments to prioritise mental health care and public mental health. Cultural psychiatrists acknowledge the relationship between power and knowledge, and they fear over-determined certainty; the confidence associated with positivistic scientific paradigms tends to betray the person-centred and experience-near approach to care that captures a more granular reality than is captured in universal policies and practice guidelines. The panel felt there were synergies of ensuring empowerment, community participation, public mental health and wellbeing interventions, and national and international leverage to foster the appropriate legal, ethical, economic environments that would protect and promote mental health and well-being. The incisive debates that accompanied the state of the art presentations together comprised the Masterclass that was sponsored by Careif (, the Cultural Consultation service ( the world association of cultural psychiatry, the transcultural section of the world psychiatric association, and Santander. There are two further Santander Lectures to be given by Professor Sergio Villasenor-Bayardo: Death Conceptions in Mexico (25th April) and Masters of Mexican Psychiatry (8th May), both 2-4pm, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London. These lectures are not charged, but due to limited places, please book with Lisa Kass:

Prof. Kamaldeep Bhui MD FRCPsych

President World Association of Cultural Psychiatry

Director of Cultural Consultation Service, and Founding Trustee of Careif

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