The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) are hosting the WPA-International Congress in Cape Town, at the CTICC from 18-22 November 2016, with the theme: "Psychiatry: Integrative Care for the Community". The congress president will be Prof Dinesh Bhugra from the United Kingdom, current WPA President and the congress director will be the current SASOP President, Dr Mvuyiso Talatala.
This is a ground breaking theme bringing together world renowned scientific experts, as well as young and established health leaders from around the globe. This is the first time ever a World Psychiatric Association International Congress is being held in South Africa. The conference is expected to attract over 3000 psychiatrists and other mental health professionals from around the world.
With this meeting, the practice of Psychiatry internationally is set to take more decisive steps on a new course that will influence the profession for years to come.
"This sounds like a very bold statement, but this is intended to be a very unique meeting," says Bernard Janse van Rensburg, President-Elect of the South African Society of Psychiatrists and co-chair of the organising committee.
"We are hoping to see the forging of a strong link between society and Psychiatry and by the end of this year, we should see the basis of a new social contract involving all the different stake holders in this undertaking," he says.
From the conference theme, the different components of Psychiatry's and psychiatrists' social contract will be unpacked, focusing on four different tracks including: neuroscience, psychotherapy, social involvement and the cultural-religious context of care.
"There seems to be unfinished business in the psyche and national agendas of our (and other) nation(s)," says Janse van Rensburg. "We can see evidence of this in unresolved collective relations such as the recent flaring up of racial tensions in South Africa reported by social and other media, and in other social concerns that are present below the surface. Psychiatry should be in a central position not only to benefit individuals, but also to participate in the definition of our expectations nationally whilst assisting to steer the debate on social issues to the most constructive outcome."
With this in mind, "social involvement" has been included as one of the four main tracks of the WPA Cape Town 2016 meeting.
"This track is most closely linked to the social contract discussion. We will be examining the role of clinicians in issues of concern to the society and the underlying reasons and manifestations of it such as xenophobia, the general impact of migration and the experienced/perceived racism," Janse van Rensburg says. "There is so much in societies worldwide that remains disconnected and fragmented, and psychiatrists should have a vital role to play in conflict resolution and in reconciling these rifts."
The conference will also be taking a close look at the latest developments in Neuroscience, which remains the core domain and scope of practice of the discipline. This fundamental aspect of Psychiatry will examine new research and innovative techniques that are revealing new aspects of how the human brain works.
Psychotherapy, the next track, is closely linked to psychological interventions as it examines relationships and emotional content underlying our behaviour patterns.
The fourth track is a unique addition to this WPA meeting programme as it examines the cultural, religious and spiritual contexts in which we practice the clinical discipline of Psychiatry.
"This may not always be the first concern for 'traditional' clinicians, but we have to take cognisance of this key driver of (mental) health care-seeking behaviour," Janse van Rensburg says. "Models of explanation of what is causing our problems have a major influence on, for example, adherence to medication. This is really about how neuroscience is applied with understanding in the context of our patients' and their families' lives."
Following the World Psychiatric Congress in 2005 in Egypt, this WPA International Congress will be the first to be held again on African soil, and Janse van Rensburg is hoping that it will also result in facilitating the organisation of the profession across the continent.
"We still do not have associations for psychiatrists in several African countries, and we certainly do not have enough psychiatrists to meet the needs of our people," he says. As part of the run up to the Cape Town event, a meeting of African psychiatric associations and individual psychiatrists is planned by the SASOP President, Dr Mvuyiso Talatala, to articulate the challenges faced by members of the profession in Africa. The Cape Town meeting should therefore also have a distinct African character.
Another aim of the WPA International Congress in Cape Town will be to focus on trainees and early career psychiatrists. This has been a specific priority for the WPA, whilst the South African National Research Fund has made a particular grant available for South Africans specialising in Psychiatry, as well as for African early career psychiatrists to attend and participate.
In terms of confirmed key-note speakers, the conference will play host to some of the top minds in Psychiatry, Neuroscience and Mental Health, including Prof Henry Markram from Geneva, founder of the Brain Mind Institute and the coordinator of the Blue Brain project, who is mapping neurons and breaking new ground in much the same way as the Human Genome Project did at the time for our knowledge of our genes.
"It is a major coup to have Prof Markram participating," says Janse van Rensburg. "He is an ex-Capetonian, now living in Switzerland and we allude to his work with the 'blue mountain' component of the congress logo."
Other prominent speakers include: Prof Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Director of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, who is renowned for his work on the genetic indicators of mental disorders; Prof Wolfgang Gaebel from Dusseldorf, current President of the European Psychiatric Association and expert on schizophrenia and quality assessment of psychiatric services; Prof Sir Simon Wessely, current President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists an known, amongst other, for his work on chronic fatigue syndrome and military mental health; Prof Maria Oquendo, President of the American Psychiatric Association and mood disorder expert; Prof Helen Herrman (Australia), current President-Elect of the WPA, known for her work with the youth and primary mental health care; as well as Prof Vikram Patel, based in India, expert on global mental health, improving access to mental health care and promoting human rights in mental health.
Two unique events are planned to also achieve actual involvement from the local community in the WPA Cape Town 2016 congress. This include a high profile performance by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra during their November season, as well as an art exhibition/competition, organised in collaboration with the AVA (Association for Visual Arts) in Cape Town. The Arts and Social Contract sub-committee of the local organising committee is also organising innovative components as part of the scientific programme, using the arts to communicate the relevance of Psychiatry today. An example is the proposed production of a multi-media and music composition by Sean Bowman, a local psychiatrist working at Valkenberg Hospital, Cape Town.
For more information on the conference logo, you can refer to http://www.wpacapetown2016.org.za/index.php/about-the-congress/about-the-congress
For more information about WPA 2016, go to the website at http://www.wpacapetown2016.org.za/
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