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APA Receives Support, Empathy From Psychiatrists Across the Globe
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 21 page 10-10

Within hours of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, psychiatrists from Thailand to Moldova to Canada and many points in between sent messages of condolence, understanding, and support to APA and their American colleagues. Here is a sampling of the messages.

On behalf of the Psychiatric Association of Thailand, its president, Kasem Tantiphlachiva, M.D., sent an e-mail to all APA staff expressing the condolences of Thai psychiatrists "for losses caused by the most brutal terrorism in the history of mankind." Acknowledging that Thailand is about as far from the site of the attacks as can be, he said that its members "share the pain and grief that the American people are [experiencing]."

From Amsterdam, the Netherlands, psychiatrist Frits Huyse, M.D., who is an APPI-published author and is chair of the annual European Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry Conference, let APA know of his support for America and that much of Europe would be declaring a day of mourning on Friday, September 14, in response to the attacks on the United States.

Rebecca Thaler, of APA’s Office of Quality Improvement and Psychiatric Services, received a message from a psychiatrist in Moldova, a tiny country between Romania and Ukraine, expressing how "shocked and saddened" he was by the terrorist attacks. Anatol Nacu, M.D., chief of the psychiatry department in Chisinau, Moldova, said that although "this tragedy occurred far from me, I take it as a personal matter, and [offer] total moral support to you, your relatives, friends, and the whole country, which was so friendly during my recent visit. . . . I hope whoever committed these murders will be punished."

From a corner of the world that is no stranger to terrorist acts came condolences from Afrim Dangellia, M.D., head of the University Clinic of Psychiatry in Tirana, Albania. And Carlos Sayavedra, M.D., president of the Panama Psychiatric Society, sent a message to APA President Richard Harding, M.D., acknowledging that APA "will have important work to do during the next few months, with the purpose of alleviating the pain of the U.S. population who need your professional services at this tragic time."

Valery Krasnov, M.D., president of the Russian Psychiatric Society, expressed his concern over the events to Darrel Regier, M.D., director of the American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education, stating that he and his colleagues are ready to help APA in any way they can to address the mental health sequelae of the attacks. A similar message was conveyed by Zurab Kekelidza, chief psychiatrist for disaster response teams in the Russian Ministry of Health and the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations. The day after the terrorist attacks on the United States, Kekilidza spoke on Moscow radio about the psychological consequences of trauma.

Regier also received a correspondence from the president of the World Psychiatric Association, Professor Juan Lopez-Ibor, of Madrid, where the WPA held an international conference beginning September 30. Lopez-Ibor said that the congress’s organizing committee had considered postponing the meeting for one year as a gesture of sympathy for those who lost their lives in the attacks and for all U.S. colleagues, but decided to proceed considering that a substantial portion of the scientific program was to include such critical topics as rehabilitation of terrorism victims, transcultural differences, and mental health issues of disasters and violence. It is important, he noted, "to look into today’s evil from a psychiatric perspective" at a time like this.

Several Canadian members sent messages to APA within hours of the disaster. Suzane Renaud, M.D., the Assembly representative for the Quebec and Eastern Canada District Branch, conveyed her "sorrow and sympathies" to U.S. colleagues and staff impacted by the disasters and wished everyone affected "the courage necessary to go through the trauma and grief that will assail you. We think about you and pray."

APA member Derek Puddester, M.D., of Ottawa, Ontario, sent a message to the APA staff to let them know of the huge outpouring of sympathy and solidarity that quickly developed in his city, including a ceremony on September 17 that drew more than 100,000 people. He noted as well that within days of the tragedy a cadre of firefighters, paramedics, and psychologists went to New York to offer their skills and that his hospital was on stand-by in case it needed to receive victims of the World Trade Center disaster.

The president of the Ontario District Branch, Ray Freebury, M.D., also e-mailed the APA staff to convey his sympathies after "the despicable acts of terrorism" and to express "the state of outraged shock" that Canadians were feeling after the attacks.

From Turkey, Peykan Gokalp, M.D., secretary general of the Turkish Neuropsychiatric Association, sent his condolences on behalf of that association to APA over the loss of life in the attacks, adding that he hopes "that this great sorrow will be overcome through solidarity worldwide." ▪

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