The World Psychiatric Association partnered with Cape Town Interfaith Initiative to host a roundtable discussion as part of the recent Conference held in Cape Town. The roundtable was held between international leading psychologists and nine local different faith leaders to address the integration of religious, spiritual and cultural influences on mental health. All participants found the interaction most inspiring and there was an impetus to create a working group to take the conversation further seek ways to collaborate and create joint programs and initiatives. It was shared that mental health is fast becoming the most prominent cause of ill health, and there are only 200 000 psychologists to serve 7.5 billion people. There is definitely a need for this collaboration, as faith leaders play a significant role in counselling and helping people and are usually the first people to be consulted before professional help is taken.
An exceptional dialogue took place in the Mandela Auditorium, at the SA Jewish Museum on Sunday 20th November after the roundtable discussion. The audience was privileged to hear the comments from members of the WPA hailing from Egypt, India, Brazil, Canada, America and Britain and dialogue with four local religious leaders. All participants enthusiastically encouraged a relationship between faith and cultural leaders and psychologists. Education, trust and better understanding is needed so that collaboratively the best care could be offered to people struggling with mental health. Interestingly also the partnership of western medicine and African Cultural methods of treatment could be encouraged without either feeling threatened. Much discussion occurred around suicide, depression and the lack of mental care especially for the marginalised, rural areas, schools and prisons but also for over stretched medical personnel.
The dialogue inspired hope and the assurance of continued input from the WPA to encourage development in this approach to treatment .
Mary Frost CTII
22 November 2016