International News
World Psychiatric Association Prepares for 21st Century
Psychiatric News
Volume 37 Number 2 page 21-21

For half a century the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) has been uniting psychiatrists from all points on the globe to promote good mental health.

The WPA brings together 118 psychiatric societies from across the world, representing a combined total of 180,000 psychiatrists.

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Juan Mezzich, M.D., Ph.D., is the secretary general of the World Psychiatric Association.

Recently psychiatric societies from Bangladesh, Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya have joined the WPA, according to Secretary General Juan Mezzich, M.D., Ph.D.

The WPA has its roots in the Association to Organize World Congresses of Psychiatry, which held its first world congress in 1950 in Paris, and was followed by world congresses in Zurich, Montreal, Madrid, Mexico City, Hawaii, Vienna, Athens, Rio de Janeiro, and Hamburg.

The Association to Organize World Congresses of Psychiatry was renamed the World Psychiatric Association in 1960. The WPA’s mission is to connect national psychiatric societies to advance the field of psychiatry and improve mental health across the world.

WPA President Juan López-Ibor Jr., M.D., Ph.D., said in the 2000 celebration of the WPA’s 50th anniversary, "The WPA has been extending and diversifying its membership to all corners of the planet, adapting to global changes, modernizing itself, and responding to the expectations its founders trusted the WPA would fulfill."

The WPA has 54 scientific sections dedicated to various area of clinical psychiatry and mental health, such as women’s mental health, affective disorders, transcultural psychiatry, and urban mental health.

Many of these sections are active internationally and accomplish a number of goals such as organizing symposia, publishing books and journals, and developing educational programs.

Many of the WPA’s activities are devoted to promoting the highest ethical standards for psychiatric practice across the world, according to Mezzich, who said that the WPA has developed ethical guidelines, which are assembled in the Madrid Declaration. "Endorsement and observance of these guidelines are a requirement for the admission and continuing membership of national psychiatric societies," he said. The Standing Committee to Review Abuse of Psychiatry considers cases of alleged abuse and recommends a course of action to the Executive Committee and the General Assembly. The following are examples of other WPA programs and activities:

• The WPA is developing a core curriculum for postgraduate training in psychiatry. According to Ahmed Okasha, M.D., president-elect of the WPA, the curriculum is aimed at improving the level of training to ensure that it is not only scientifically sound but also culturally sensitive. This curriculum involves basic recommendations that will be distributed widely to inform the development and refinement of psychiatric residency programs across the world.

• The WPA’s institutional program to promote the professional development of young psychiatrists is designed to foster the future of the field across the world and particularly in developing countries. It accomplishes this through organizing fellowships at WPA congresses and meetings, preparing courses for career development, and establishing awards for scientific contributions.

• The WPA has established the Global Program Against Stigma and Discrimination Because of Schizophrenia, with the participation of various medical and behavioral science disciplines, patient and family associations, and intergovernmental organizations. "At stake are therapeutic effectiveness, as well as human rights and the highest ethical aspirations of our profession," said Mezzich.

• To better identify, assess, and treat people with mental illness, the WPA is working with the World Health Organization, APA, and other psychiatric associations to decide how to best use and develop further international systems of classification and diagnosis. Interest has been expressed in the development of a more coordinated international standard attentive to the diversity of clinical realities and needs across the world, according to Mezzich.

• The WPA is promoting the advancement of psychiatry and mental health in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia. It is holding several meetings in those areas with local psychiatric organizations. Since there are few psychiatrists in those areas, the meetings should expand mental health services for underserved populations by helping psychiatrists network with other health professionals. The WPA is encouraging participation from its large member societies such as APA.

Okasha, who chairs this program, has organized meetings in Egypt and other locations in Africa and is organizing a federation of African psychiatric societies to coordinate the work of psychiatrists and mental health professionals there. In addition, former APA President Harold Eist, M.D., chair of APA’s Commission on Global Psychiatry, is working to connect American psychiatrists of African ancestry with colleagues working in Africa.

Another WPA initiative is the development of educational programs. It has, for example, developed the International Guidelines for Diagnostic Assessment and is establishing a program of continuing medical education credits.

On the publishing front, the WPA is coming out with a new journal, World Psychiatry, which will be distributed free to 20,000 psychiatrists beginning in February, through a distribution system arranged in consultation with WPA member societies and sections. The contents will include original scientific articles, review papers, and statements of general interest for clinical practice and public health and will highlight activities of the WPA and its scientific sections.

More information about the World Psychiatric Association is posted on the Web at www.wpanet.org.

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Juan Mezzich, M.D., Ph.D., is the secretary general of the World Psychiatric Association.

Recently psychiatric societies from Bangladesh, Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya have joined the WPA, according to Secretary General Juan Mezzich, M.D., Ph.D.

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