As President of Singapore Psychiatric Association, I was invited by the Philippines Psychiatric Association (PPA) to attend the 14th Congress of the ASEAN Federation for Psychiatry & Mental Health (AFPMH) in Cebu, Philippines from 13 to 15 November 2014. The AFPMH Congress is held every 2 yearly and was last held in Singapore in 2012.
This year the theme of the Congress is “SETTING GOLD STANDARDS of CARE in ASEAN PSYCHIATRY”. The keynote speaker was Professor Mohan Issac from University of Western Australia, Perth. There was also a 3-day pre-Congress course on Leadership and Professional Development of Young Psychiatrists conducted by Professor Norman Sartorius from Switzerland.
At the Congress, there was a section on research in ASEAN psychiatry and an update on the ASEAN Journal of Psychiatry. The Presidents (or their representatives) of ASEAN countries from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Singapore also presented their country reports on the last day of the Congress. My country report focused on the recently launched community mental health services such as the Assessment and Shared Care Teams and Community Mental Health Intervention Team which aim to provide faster and much accessible services to the general public.
During the meeting, the PPA also announced that it has prepared a draft mental health bill to fortify efforts to address the growing mental problems in the country. The PPA is proposing that mental health be devolved to the local government units. This entails training of local health workers on how to handle psychiatric cases and the provision of free medicines for mental cases in the health centres. The emphasis is on the integration of mental health in general health care or the “mainstreaming” of mental health as well as the development of standards for acute psychiatric care in hospitals.
I must say the AFPMH Congress was an excellent and well organized meeting which not only allowed me to look at new perspectives in mental health issues, but also built new friendships that span beyond ASEAN countries. I also look forward to the 15th AFPMH Congress which is going to be held in Indonesia.
Dr Lee Cheng
Singapore Psychiatric Association