World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and Affiliated Society, The SAARC Psychiatry Federation (SPF) hold one of the largest regional congresses in Kolkata, India
World Psychiatric Association Regional Congress 2023, was held in Kolkata, India from 14th to 16th April 2023. The conference was organised by SAARC Psychiatric Federation (SPF) on behalf of WPA and co-sponsored by the Psychiatric Societies and Federation of the member societies of the Eight countries which make up SPF (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The theme of the conference, Building Awareness: Bridging Treatment Gap was chosen to bring a global awareness of the importance of creating awareness in all spectra of society, fostering a culture of inclusiveness, advocating for the rights of persons with mental disorders and generating resources for building robust mental health services tailored to both individualised and societal needs, specially in the South–Asian countries. There is an enormous worrying treatment gap of 85% in mental health service provisions, fundamentally for the main reasons of stigma and a low ratio of doctor to patient. Unfortunately, we have only 1:10000 psychiatrists and we aim to reach the target of 1:2000 psychiatrists by bridging this gap.
The President of the Congress, Prof. Afzal Javed, was instrumental behind the huge success of the 4-day event, which included the Pre-Congress Leadership Course and 10 Workshops on the 13th April 2023. The Organising Committee was chaired by Dr Gautam Saha and Dr Edmond Pi, and the Scientific Committee chairs were Dr G Prasad Rao and Dr Pichet Udomratn.
The Congress was attended by 1200 Psychiatrists, from 26 countries and 5 continents. With a total registration of 1400 delegates, this was one of the biggest WPA Regional Congress, attended by nearly 20 Presidents of different Psychiatric Associations and Societies in the World. Three WPA Past Presidents, Dr Norman Sartorius, Dr Helen Herrman, Dr Dinesh Bhugra were also in attendance. Over the four days, there were a total of 225 hours of academic sessions, including 9 Plenary Lectures, 42 Distinguished Talks, 32 Key Note Lectures, 30 State of the Art Talks, 11 Special Sessions, 7 Congress Workshops, 86 Symposia, 120 Free Paper Presentations and 48 e-Posters. With 33 International Speakers outside the SAARC region, the total number of speakers was 565.
Colleagues from all the SAARC countries actively collaborated to plan this event and took great care to include Lunch Time sessions for NGOs, Undergraduate Students, Post Graduate Students and interactive sessions with the Presidents of different Associations.
This was seen as an opportunity to become the advocate for patients with mental health illness, for highlighting and sensitising the general population on the mental health issues, bringing together psychiatrists and other mental health professionals and providing a forum where the voice of patients or highly traumatised fellow human beings and their families will be heard.
World Psychiatric Association awarded 36 CPD points for the Congress, 4 CPD points for the Pre-Congress Leadership Course and 2 CPD points for the Pre-congress Workshops.
WPA and SPF also awarded two travel fellowships, one each for Undergraduate Medical students and Postgraduate Psychiatric Students from the SAARC member countries
The Chief Guest at the Inauguration was His Excellency, Honourable Governor of West Bengal Dr. C V Ananda Bose, IAS. In his inaugural address, he complimented the WPA and SAARC Psychiatric Federation on the excellent work in Mental Health services and presented a Scroll of Honour for their services.
Alongside the Academic Programme, a mental health awareness walk was organised from Mohor Kunj on the morning of the 14th April 2023. The walk was attended by over 1500 participants, including noted film actors, senior police officers, parliamentarians, school children, NGOs, doctors from different specialties, carers, musicians and other artists.
The Organisers also arranged an Art Exhibition, ‘Visual Expressions Beyond Borders’ where 19 psychiatrists from India presented their original work of paintings and photography. There was also an Art therapy corner to familiarise visitors with the principles of art therapy.
And of course, the delegates were welcomed in the relaxed evening banquets with cultural performances from the traditional shores of India and had an excellent opportunity to gather memorable moments and cherish the friendship bonds.
Author: Dr Gautam Saha, President SAARC Psychiatric Federation, Organising Chair, WPARC 2023, Kolkata, India