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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-3

World Social Psychiatry: A Dream Coming True, but Miles to Go!

President, World Association of Social Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Pushpagiri Institute of Medical Sciences, Thiruvalla, Kerala, India

Date of Web Publication27-Sep-2019

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Roy Abraham Kallivayalil
Department of Psychiatry, Pushpagiri Institute of Medical Sciences, Thiruvalla - 689 101, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/WSP.WSP_17_19

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How to cite this article:
Kallivayalil RA. World Social Psychiatry: A Dream Coming True, but Miles to Go!. World Soc Psychiatry 2019;1:1-3

How to cite this URL:
Kallivayalil RA. World Social Psychiatry: A Dream Coming True, but Miles to Go!. World Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2019 [cited 2023 Mar 24];1:1-3. Available from: https://www.worldsocpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2019/1/1/1/267964

The World Association of Social Psychiatry (WASP) was founded in 1964 at London, and its head office is registered at Paris. Some of its main objectives as stated in our statutes are (i) to promote greater understanding of the interactions between individuals and their physical and human environment (including their society and culture), and the impact of these interactions on the clinical expression, treatment of mental and behavioral problems, and disorders and their prevention; (ii) to promote mental health through education of health workers, policy makers and decision makers, and the community at large; (iii) to promote national and international collaboration among professionals and societies in social psychiatry and related disciplines; and (iv) to carry out or promote research that can facilitate the understanding of the interaction between social factors, psychological functioning, and mental health or illness.

During the last 55 years, WASP has grown to a major international organization in mental health and the foremost in social psychiatry. Its member societies are established all over the world to facilitate the aims and objectives of the association. With World Congresses held regularly every 3 years and several regional and national conferences, the association could rightly focus on social psychiatry in a rapidly changing world. Social determinants of mental health, interpersonal and cultural context of mental disorders and well-being are all engaging our attention as never before.

WASP had several means to disseminate its information – the WASP news, a dedicated website www.waspsocialpsychiatry.com/and regular communication with the member societies. However, the lack of an official Journal to propagate the ideas and the philosophy of the association was increasingly being felt. This was voiced especially at the WASP General Assembly held at New Delhi 2016, and the starting of the Journal was approved. Thereafter, the Executive Committee (EC) of WASP met on several occasions to study various aspects such as the visibility of the new Journal, its name, its financial position, and above all to appoint an editor who will work with commitment and dedication. The EC finally approved the name “World Social Psychiatry (WSP)” for the new journal. From among various names proposed, it was decided to appoint Debasish Basu (Chandigarh, India) as the editor. It was noted that he was performing an outstanding job as the editor of Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry. It is hoped that his rich experience, commitment, and the availability of a very good team which is already working with him along with the wholehearted support of our member societies will take WSP to its rightful place as a major international Journal.

Social factors play a significant role in the causation and maintenance of emotional disorders. Despite biological psychiatry making significant strides, it is impossible to think of practice or research in psychiatry, not influenced by the social dimensions. We are in a rapidly changing world. The effects of urbanization, globalization, and rapid technological advances are palpable, and it influences all spheres of our lives. Newer social factors such as virtual reality, technology, and gadgets and advances in technology and their usage are likely to change the practice of psychiatry all around the world.[1] The effect of these social changes on the mental health is significant, and there is a need for it to take the center stage at par or above the biological underpinnings for mental illness and well-being.

Social psychiatry and psychiatric environmental strategies which focus on the promotion of mental health, have frequently been questioned, often demonstrating the conflicts seen between qualitative evidence and quantitative criticism, between biological positivistic and humanistic hermeneutic scientific theory.[2]

Burrows[3] stated as early in 1828 that: “Many of the causes inducing intellectual derangement, have their origin not in individual passion or feelings, but in the state of society at large; and the more artificial, i.e., civilised society. These causes multiply and extensively operate. The vices of civilisation, of course, most conduce to their increase; but even the moral virtues, religion, politics, nay philosophy itself, and all the best feelings of our nature, if too enthusiastically incited, class among the causes producing intellectual disorders.” The study of social factors influencing mental illness was important then, and it is only apt that its relevance takes the centre stage now.

Social psychiatry looks back onto an eventful history. It is closely linked to other scientific disciplines and the multifaceted nature of the word social; its definition and delimitation were, and continue to be, rather ambiguous.[4] A modern social psychiatry should be in a position to integrate methods from the social sciences on the one hand and further developments of the field of psychiatry and psychotherapy on the other. Even though the challenges are plenty, social psychiatry has made significant strides in the 20th century. It is only imperative that we continue these strides and delve deep into the realms that need further understandings.

One obvious problem facing the discipline of social psychiatry is the difficulty in making psychosocial interventions of proven efficacy available to all those who could benefit from them. The advances in biological psychiatry have made the use of drugs a public health strategy to tackle mental health problems. With this grew large corporations that funded “brain research,” that in turn increased their own profits. Unlike these drugs, psychosocial treatments do not generate big profits. The only marketing a proven psychosocial strategy receives is a passionate social psychiatrist speaking about it or publishing the same in a social psychiatry journal. Despite evidence, many of the psychiatrists fail to implement psychosocial treatments, and the reasons for this apparent failure need to be studied on a high priority.

Leff,[5] in his chapter titled “climate change in psychiatry: periodic fluctuations or terminal trend?” in the book titled “Society and Psychosis,” looked at the changing trends in articles published in the British Journal of Psychiatry (BJP) and the American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP). His analysis concluded that, in terms of the publication of psychosocial articles, the two journals have been moving progressively further apart during the past 19 years. The BJP shows a significant increase in the proportion of these articles, while the AJP exhibits a significant decrease of approximately the same magnitude. As a result, by 2005, the difference in the composition of the two journals was highly significant.

In an article published by Saxena et al. in the BJP,[6] it was found that the mental health publications accounted for 3%–4% of the health literature. A “10/90 divide” in internationally accessible mental health literature was evident and remained undiminished through 10 years as low- and middle-income countries contributed only 6%, high-income countries 94%, and 14 leading high-income countries contributed 90% of internationally accessible mental health research. They concluded that steps should be taken to improve the research infrastructure and capacity to conduct and disseminate mental health research in general, and on a priority basis in low- and middle-income countries.[6]

Psychiatric journals are both the means and repository of dissemination of professional learning.[7] As in every other specialty, a journal documents the vision, progress, and constant learning that happens in that field. WSP Journal will enhance the visibility of social psychiatry as a discipline. The hurdles that it crossed to take shape are many. Moreover, it would have more hurdles in its course, considering the challenges that social psychiatry as a discipline face today.

López-Ibor, then President of the World Psychiatric Association, wrote in his editorial in the first issue of “World Psychiatry” in February 2002: “Every newborn brings hopes, opportunities and also commitments to help him grow and become a focal point and enlighten member of a large community. World psychiatry is not a little step in the history of the World Psychiatric Association.”[8] “World Psychiatry” has now proved, just in a span of 17 years, not to be little step but a giant leap! Under the dynamic editor Mario Maj, the new impact factor of World Psychiatry is 34.024,[9] consolidating its position as number 1 among all psychiatric journals and among all journals included in the Social Science Citation Index. “WSP” can take encouragement from this, and we do hope that WSP will be rated as one of the best journals in social psychiatry in the coming one or two decades! Our efforts should focus on reinvigorating the process of bringing social psychiatry back into the mainstream. Social psychiatry as a public health strategy will be the key to addressing mental health problems in this rapidly changing world. And, let “WSP” be one of the key vehicles toward this goal and for furthering the objectives of the WASP!

  References Top

Prasad K, Angothu H, Mathews M, Chaturvedi S. How are social changes in the twenty first century relevant to mental health? Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2016;32:227.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
Rutz W. Social psychiatry and public mental health: Present situation and future objectives. Time for rethinking and renaissance? Acta Psychiatr Scand Suppl 2006;429:95-100.  Back to cited text no. 2
Burrows GM. Commentaries on the Causes, forms, Symptoms, and Treatment, Moral and Medical, of Insanity. London, T. and G. Underwood; 1828. p. 717. Available from: http://archive.org/details/commentariesonc00burrgoog. [Last accessed on 2019 Jun 18].  Back to cited text no. 3
Haack K, Kumbier E. History of social psychiatry. Curr Opin Psychiatry 2012;25:492-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Leff J. Climate change in psychiatry: Periodic fluctuations or terminal trend? In: Morgan C, McKenzie K, Fearon P, editors. Society and Psychosis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2008. p. 11-22.  Back to cited text no. 5
Saxena S, Paraje G, Sharan P, Karam G, Sadana R. The 10/90 divide in mental health research: Trends over a 10-year period. Br J Psychiatry 2006;188:81-2.  Back to cited text no. 6
Vachha MR. Psychiatry and its journals (editorial). Indian J Psychiatry 1964;6:1.  Back to cited text no. 7
López-Ibor JJ. “World psychiatry”: An opportunity for psychiatrists of the world. World Psychiatry 2002;1:1.  Back to cited text no. 8
World Psychiatry. Wiley Online Library. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/20515545. [Last accessed on 2019 July 02].  Back to cited text no. 9

This article has been cited by
1 Mens sana in societate sana… toward a wholesome world of social psychiatry
Debasish Basu,Nitin Gupta
World Social Psychiatry. 2019; 1(1): 4
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