I bring greetings from the new committee of the MPA for the term 2004/2006. I apologize for the delay in coming out with the Newsletter. Some of you have been asking me: Many moons come; newsletter no come; how come? Well, here we come with news and views.
Many events have overtaken us with astonishing rapidity in the past few months. The most notable is the tsunami that struck our region. I must say that the mental health profession has responded magnificently to this crisis. Many psychiatrists and psychologists and paramedics have volunteered to go to the north of the peninsula to help out. Others have gone to Aceh and Sri Lanka. Some of our colleagues in the north have held training sessions for lay counselors. We have held a training session in Kuala Lumpur, and plan to hold more.
A protem National Committee for Mental Health Response to Disasters has been formed and the MPA President co-chairs this committee. At the behest of this committee, I have been to Aceh (under the auspices of MERCY Malaysia) to assess needs with Prof Hatta Shahrom’s assistance, and have submitted a report to the committee as well as to the World Psychiatric Association (WPA). The WPA is meeting in Cairo with sponsors next week to discuss resource allocation. I will be presenting a paper at the WPA Regional Conference in Athens on the Malaysian response to the tsunami.
Our plan is not only to assist our Indonesian colleagues but also to provide (according to their request) training sessions for paramedics and others to improve mental health services in Aceh for the long-term. A similar approach will be taken with Sri Lanka. I would like to thank all members for helping, and seek more assistance. Could you also write to the Newsletter about what has been done in your area so that we are aware of these activities? It will be good to record these. Members will be pleased to know that 2 major conferences are planned for the near future.
The 11th MCPM will be held in June 2005; and the biggie: the 19th World Congress of Psychotherapy will be held in Malaysia in August 2006. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time a World Congress in the mental health field is being held in Malaysia (though large international regional congresses have been held before). We have already held a meeting with Prof. Ulrich Schnyder, the President of the International Federation for Psychotherapy, who visited us in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Look out for more news on this exciting event. We will carry on with the good work that has been started by the earlier committee, and build on it. At the same time, we will start new initiatives. We plan to decentralize the activities of the MPA as much as possible. In the past the complaint has been that the Association has not done much for members in smaller towns. Most things seem to happen in Kuala Lumpur. Let me reassure you that we have begun to address this. We have appointed zonal representatives for the North, South, East and Sabah & Sarawak. Zonal representatives will plan and implement activities for members, encourage participation in CME and other types of meetings.
We have also decided that wherever possible, members from the periphery, especially the younger psychiatrists, should be invited/ sponsored to attend CME related activities and training programs, rather than the same old people (no pun intended) going for meetings again and again. We have already started implementing this. In addition, we have had input into the scientific content of the local pharma sponsored conferences and meetings. We will also be publishing news of training programs, conferences and other helpful news for members to know and interested ones to submit applications. For all these things to succeed we need the active support of all our members.
I desire that our Association function in an inclusive manner rather than be elitist.
Let every member know that we are here to work for you, you are here to help us in this task, and all of us are here to make a difference in the lives of those who are needy. We are not a rich Association, but we do have some resources which we will use to benefit our members. I do hope that you will read through this newsletter carefully and respond to its call. One way you can show your interest is by writing in your comments and suggestions, by sharing your experiences. The article on ECT by Dr. Premkumar of Penang in the previous issue is a good example.
We encourage members to respond to such initiatives. The festive season has come and gone. Much work lies ahead. We have been reminded afresh that we are a professional community. For the job that lies ahead of us we should think coolly, conduct our affairs ethically and with dignity to uphold the noble ethics of the medical, psychiatric and the mental health professions. Then we can provide leadership to those who expect us to provide that leadership at a time when the medical profession in general and the mental health field in particular is being assailed by various pressures (from within and without) that might, if not carefully handled, redefine the way the caring professions work, and that threaten to re-shape our ethos. To paraphrase those famous words of a bygone era, my dear fellow members, don’t stop at asking what the MPA can do for you but ask what we all together can do to make our profession stand tall as contributors to our society and providers of care at the cross-roads that our nation finds itself today.
Our immediate past president, Professor Hussain Habil, has amply demonstrated that a proactive approach to the problems facing the mental health field and our patients and their families is the only way to move forward. Waiting for the powers-that-be will not work. No more hiding behind institutional walls, both physical and mental, no more pusillanimous pussy-footing as if we are poor country cousins of modern medicine. Psychiatry must shed its isolationist and Cinderella mentality. No fairy godmother is going to come to change pumpkins into gilded carriages. This is not for us and our careers, but for the great voiceless mass of emotionally suffering people whom providence has placed under our care, that they too may have a rightful place under the Malaysian sun.
Professor T. Maniam
President of MPA