Equal access to quality mental health care for all remains an unmet goal across the world. As mental health professionals, we confront the challenge of helping to overcome structural barriers to service delivery and to ensure that these services respond effectively to the needs of the increasingly diverse populations we serve. In a world composed of multicultural societies, augmented each day by massive migratory movements, and characterized by persistent inequalities faced by underserved social groups, cultural psychiatry is a key contributor to the development of effective health systems.
Over several decades, there has been growing recognition of the impact of culture on mental health and illness. Culture helps pattern the symptoms of emotional disorders, influences vulnerabilities to adversity and resources for care, and shapes our health care practices and institutions. Thus, culturally informed practices are essential to the provision of quality mental health care. Health services must adopt cultural competence, cultural humility, and cultural safety approaches to increase the validity of the services delivered for a range of individuals and their families, to promote their full participation in treatment, and to enhance the effectiveness of care.
The World Association of Cultural Psychiatry (WACP) was created to respond to these challenges. WACP promotes the exchange of scientific and educational information on the role of culture in psychological wellbeing, emotional stress and illness, and mental health care around the world. WACP provides a forum for mental health professionals to network across geographical regions and to build clinical expertise as mental healthcare providers. WACP aims to strengthen the influence of cultural psychiatry in mental health care and health systems development overall.
WACP organizes World Congresses of Cultural Psychiatry (WCCPs) every three years in different regions of the world. The first WCCP was held in 2006 in Beijing, People’s Republic of China, followed by Congresses in Norcia, Italy (2009), London, United Kingdom (2012), Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (2015), and New York, United States of America (2018). The 2022 World Congress (delayed because of the pandemic) was held in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Regional Congresses are also organized at various times.
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