It is with great sadness that World Psychiatric Association (WPA) shares news of the passing of
Dr Avdesh Sharma on the 10th March 2022 in Delhi, India.
An esteemed psychiatrist and mental health advocate, Dr Avdesh Sharma's impact on the profession, and on those who were fortunate to know him, is difficult to put into words. Prof. Dinesh Bhugra (WPA Council Member and former WPA President (2014-2017), shares his recollections of Dr Avdesh Sharma and his great work:
I first met Avdesh over two decades ago and we quickly bonded. His very kind nature and his total commitment to mental health and mental wellbeing was truly impressive. We were in regular contact over the years and each message that Avdesh sent was inspirational.
He graduated from Maulana Azad medical College in Delhi in 1979 and went to NIMHANS to complete his psychiatry training where he met and married Sujatha. Avdesh set up his private practice on his return to Delhi and both husband and wife set up "Rahat" - a charity for public education on mental health. He led on various de-addiction TV programmes as well as in real-life settings. Spirituality was an important aspect of his personal and professional life. However, he also had an open and enquiring mind, demonstrated by his collaboration as a founding member of the Indian Association of Biological Psychiatry.
When I asked him to help us at WPA on public education projects, he jumped at the chance. As the WPA public education lead in 2014, he delivered with his innovative approaches by setting up regular mental health ambassadors articles informing people about the organisation, its mission and the impact of mental illness in various newspapers, magazines and journals. He was then elected Chair of the WPA Section on Religion and Spirituality Section about two years ago and in spite of his illness, he was in his element, working hard and making every moment count. He was an individual who always went beyond the call of duty and delivered more that what was asked of him
He established RAHAT - a charitable and medical research trust and founded many organisations to educate and promote awareness on the topic of stigma surrounding people with mental illness. These activities once again demonstrated his commitment to support vulnerable individuals who often do not have a voice. He was President of the Indian Association of Private Psychiatry and the North Zone of Indian Psychiatric Society and Delhi Psychiatric Society. He chaired several Committees on ‘Public Education & Stigma Reduction’ as part of the WPA Section on ‘Psychiatry in Developing Countries’ as well as the Indian Psychiatric Society’s task force on ‘Media and Mental Health’ and 'Committee on Spirituality & Mental Health' for many years. He was also Secretary General and Member of Advisory Committee and Director of Communications for WASS (World Academy of Spiritual Sciences).
For his various contributions, he received multiple awards and international recognition but these were not his motivation for doing what he loved best. Spirituality was his passion. He was associated with various wings of Brahmakumaris, a global NGO that has had consultative status with United Nations for about 25 years, and has been a faculty on numerous international and national conferences and retreats on "Soul Mind Body Medicine and Meditation".
He was also a creative individual in many ways. As a creative director with National Films Development Corporation (NFDC) he anchored and helped in programming weekly 'Health Programmes' on the Doordarshan Network. In addition, he anchored and programmed a weekly/fortnightly series on drug abuse for seven years with around 200 episodes, and was a regular columnist for many national newspapers and magazines.
Lastly, he was a true guru, an ascetic who enjoyed giving in all kinds of ways from teaching, charity work, looking after patients etc. He was larger than life. A truly humble individual who brought joy and life to others around him. He bore his terminal illness as part of his life, never complaining and never feeling pity for himself. He was a generous, kind and passionate individual and he is a great loss not only to psychiatry around the globe, but also to his friends for his wisdom. He was dedicated to his profession, full of energy and enthusiasm and driven to always do the right thing.
He is survived by his wife Sujatha and daughter Manasi.
His legacy and contribution will outlast us. The world and psychiatry in particular are poorer for his loss.
Author: Dinesh Bhugra, former WPA President (2014-2017)