Regional conference in Bali: “Promoting mental health: Working with Community”

September 20, 2012

Mental Health leaders from 18 countries gathered in Bali, Indonesia to build principles and practices for community mental health promotion.

In a region where economic development is occurring at rates never seen before, communities face enormous challenges as their societies struggle to cope with the consequences and rapidity of change.

The growing epidemic of mental illness and extremely limited if not negligible access to care is a problem facing governments and also families, communities, schools, businesses, and the people with lived experience of mental illness themselves.

Professor Chee Ng, Co-Director of AAMH, said “there is a pressing need in the Asia Pacific to translate mental health policy into best practice sustainable and culturally appropriate models of care at the local level.  Solutions to increase the accessibility of mental health service beyond mental hospitals are being sought through creative partnerships with existing community resources.”

Asia Australia Mental Health, a consortium of St. Vincent’s Health and the University of Melbourne’s Dept of Psychiatry and Asialink has established a platform for mental health and government leaders from 18 countries across the Asia Pacific region to work together to find creative solutions to the growing burden of mental health issues.

150 leaders from the AAMH network across the Asia Pacific gathered in Bali, Indonesia from 11-12 September to find new ways to provide services to their communities.

18 very diverse models for promoting mental health in the community were presented. These ranged from education programs run in schools in Indonesia; the integration of mental health into primary health services in the Philippines; programs to target high suicide rates in the elderly in Korea; empowering non-psychiatrists in Singapore; and e-health initiatives developed by the Australian government.

For the first time, Myanmar participated in the network with Prof. Win Aung Myint and Dr. Zaw Sein Lwin presenting an outstanding model of community mental health in a small city outside of Yangon.  The community mental health program included a focus on advocacy meetings, training programs, weekly households visits, weekly specialist mental health clinics at the primary health centre, and a monitoring and evaluation program.

The network invests in long term relationships between the region’s leaders in mental health, providing for open and honest discussions on often difficult and complex problems. It provides opportunity for reflection on how ideas from other countries in the region might be useful for adaptation to their own country contexts.

Professor Das, Director of the National Institute for Health and Family Welfare India stressed the value of the network in a workshop session at the September meeting:

“In our countries we need to work with many population groups with which we may not be familiar, such as the mental health needs of today’s kids going to school” he said.

“Without my colleagues (in the AAMH network) it would have been hard to find solutions”

“Collective involvement in decision-making certainly improves decisions,” Prof. Das concluded.