Column: Dr Avdesh Sharma


The year 2005 has been a momentous one in the world of psychiatry. The World Psychiatric Association, the apex body of all psychiatric societies in the globe, has carved out a special section for developing countries. The president of this niche section is Dr M.P. Deva of Malaysia, Dr Afzal Javed from U.K. is its general secretary.

In its wisdom, the WPA has nominated me as the key person for coordinating the activities of the committee on Media and Public Education. The immediate goal is to make a plan of action for Asia (with India playing a major role), which can be emulated in other developing countries, especially those in South Africa and Latin America. The idea is to document and use models of care already existent. The committee also envisages training of mental health professionals in promoting positive mental health and reducing the burden of mental illnesses. It would also carry out training of media personal for reducing stigma of mental illnesses and induce early treatment, care and rehabilitation in the society.

The human mind is a resource that can go under the earth, beyond the skies, conquer the outer world and also explore our inner world. Save it

A task of this nature can only be done with the help of a caring community, empowered organizations and committed individuals. We look forward to such support, suggestions and networking. It is our belief that caring individuals would help in managing this enormous task. We do firmly believe that ‘Together We Can Reach the Unreached’.

This special section for developed countries has already held three sessions in WPA supported forums in 2005-at Cairo in September, Sydney in November and Dhaka in December. It proposes to have at least six more in 2006 to benefit members. The primary objectives of this special section are:

  1. To provide a platform for sharing of experiences, problems and solutions in the practice of psychiatry and mental health in developing countries, at WPA sponsored and supported conferences all over the world.
  2. To encourage research into psychiatry and mental health in developing countries.
  3. To link psychiatrists in developing countries through a regular electronic and paper newsletter to share experiences, create media awareness and undertake public education.
  4. To play an active role in voicing the needs of developing countries in the field of mental health.
  5. To link its members with other agencies the world over through the WPA to participate in discussions, projects, training and research.
  6. To be a spokes body on matters relating to mental health and psychiatry in developing countries and arrange through its network in providing voluntary help in developing countries to improve mental health.

There have been differences in the way developed and developing countries have managed the mental health and disease of its communities. Despite sporadic examples of success in developing countries, the vast majority of developing countries’ mental care systems remain stagnant, and are sometimes falling apart because of lack of resources and lack of sharing of knowledge. Those who succeed in changing mental health at low cost cannot share their experiences; those who overcame obstacles by innovation are not able to help others resolve theirs.

The problem is a lack of a forum to share ideas and motivate change. Members of developing countries being also deprived of funds are not always able to attend conferences largely meant for developed countries. Some leave to serve in the developed world. As the mental health professionals emigrate, the innovative systems painstakingly developed by enthusiastic innovators in developing countries fall by the wayside - and mental health care for millions that could have been different remain the same or deteriorate.

Human mind is too precious to be left to idle, create unnecessary repetitive patterns, indulge in negativity or allowed to deteriorate and become unhealthy. It is a resource that can go under the earth, beyond the skies, conquer the outer world and also explore our inner world.
The idea is to save the mind. 

—Dr Avdesh Sharma is a celebrated mental health expert. He can be reached on, or +919811078599

January 2006

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