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"Voices of South Asia" - Associations join forces to promote awareness in older adult mental health

Updated: Jan 31



As professionals working with mental health of older adults, the International Psychogeriatric Association (IPA) are focused on raising awareness around the impact of ageism on health outcomes and to support the protection of human rights of older persons with mental health conditions. As part of this objective, the IPA launched an exciting new initiative last month - the “Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Week’.


Kicking off on the 1st October with the United Nations' “International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP)and concluding on 10 October in conjunction with World Mental Health Day, the Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Week is a brand new ten-day initiative. It is focused on raising awareness of the importance for "Better Mental Health for Older People" with virtual programmes from all around the world on each of these ten days.


As part of this Awareness Week, the IPA hosted a discussion on the 6th October, titled "Mental healthcare services and advocacy for the older people amidst COVID crisis: Voices from South Asia" in conjunction with the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), Indian Association of Geriatric Mental Health (IAGMH), SAARC Psychiatric Federation (SPF), and the Asian Federation of Psychiatric Associations (AFPA).


This first-of-its kind discussion was attended by a panel of global leaders: Dr.Afzal Javed (President, WPA), Dr.Gautam Saha (President, IPS), Dr.G.Prasad Rao (President, IAGMH and President Elect, AFPA) as well as Dr.Sudarshan Narsingh (President, SPF); and it was moderated and organised by Dr.Debanjan Banerjee (Consultant Geriatric Psychiatrist, on behalf of the IPA organising committee).


Dr. Banerjee initiated the panel by stating that Asia has some of the fastest developing economies and largest conglomerations of populations in the world. One such geographically unique region is South Asia, which accounts for nearly 25% of the global population and one-fifth of the psychiatric morbidity worldwide. Dr. Javed aptly set the stage by highlighting the need for active collaboration between the WPA and South Asian psychiatric organisations to optimise research, collaboration, training and service delivery in the field of mental healthcare in older adults.


COVID-19 has further Marginalised the Older Population


Dr. Prasad Rao and Dr. Saha added that the Indian societies have been on the frontline during the pandemic in terms of formulating telepsychiatry guidelines and discussion with policy makers about prioritising geriatric mental healthcare. Dr. Narsingh brought focus to the importance of person-centred dementia care, role of NGOs and training of the general physicians. Dr. Narsingh and Dr. Javed also reported the unique challenges within Nepal and Pakistan respectively in terms of mental healthcare resources and service provisions for psychogeriatric care.


All the panelists concurred that new research projects related to mental health of older adults need to be initiated to set a common framework for evidence-based practice and curriculum for undergraduate medical training. Recent years have also witnessed paradigm shift in mental health policies, infrastructure and technology among these South-Asian nations. Climate changes, migration, displacement and ecological characteristics are the additional challenges which need to be faced by improvising telepsychiatric services, primary care training and cross-country collaboration under the guidance of global agencies like the WPA and IPA.


The panelists thanked the IPA for bringing the “Voices of South Asia” together and promised a continued collaboration for rights and dignity based mental healthcare for older people in the SAARC countries.


Author: Dr Debanjan Banerjee (dr.Djan88@gmail.com)


Link for the session can be reached here.

Link for the IPA awareness week (entire programme) can be found here.


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