Special Interest Groups

New publications on the Effect of Covid-19 and Lockdowns on Adolescents and Young Adults

Three members of the SIG have edited a Frontiers in Psychiatry Edition with 8 articles on this subject in 2024


Mao-Sheng Ran, Yunyu Xiao, Hans Rohlof (2024). Editorial: The impact of COVID-19 on internet addiction, suicidal behavior, and study behavior in adolescents in various cultural contexts. Frontiers in Psychiatry. Section Adolescent and Young Adult Psychiatry, Volume 15. https://bit.ly/42xuxdn

Emergency Special Interest Group: Cultural Psychiatry and the Covid-19 Virus Pandemic.

Chairs: Hans Rohlof (Leiden, NL), Jianzhong Yang (Kunming, PRC), Maosheng Ran (Hongkong, HKSAR), Geert Smid (Amsterdam, NL), Tsuyoshi Akiyama (Tokio, Japan).

Mission/Goal: This Emergency SIG will produce material, in any form, on how different populations like migrants, refugees, minorities, and undocumented persons have to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Next to this, we will initiate common research on mental health data in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic in different populations.

Activities: We will try to disseminate procedures, protocols, education material and recommendations, in any form, written or on video or podcasts, on this problem. We will also promote, and if possible actively engage, scientific studies on this field. In the upcoming conferences in Shanghai and Rotterdam we will present outcomes of these activities.


COVID-19 and Cultural Psychiatry

The outbreak of COVID-19 began in Wuhan, China in December of 2019 and spread all over the world as a pandemic in the first months of 2020. Very different methods of coping have arisen in various societies, with diverse effects on the health of the population and on the economy of each country. All these differences should be studied, in order to assess the effect of the pandemic on mental health and to prevent and treat various psychiatric disorders related to COVID-19.

This is an important task for cultural psychiatrists all over the world. Together, we can demonstrate the effects of the various health strategies taken in response to the risk of infection on the psychological response of the general population and specifically of psychiatric patients. The staggered course of the COVID-19 pandemic enables us to learn from countries where the pandemic was present earlier in order to inform strategies for psychological and psychiatric care in countries where the pandemic has emerged later.

Of course, cultural psychiatry teaches us that people and societies may differ in terms of ways of coping and adaptation. Some strategies used in more collectivist societies may not apply as well in individualistic societies. Differences in political systems can also play a role. At the level of individuals, would people living in a collectivistic society be more willing to give up their freedoms? This could result in less psychological strain in collectivistic societies, and more willingness to adapt to collectively taken measures.

The Emergency Special Interest Group (SIG) on Cultural Psychiatry and the COVID-19 Pandemic, founded by the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry, aims to address questions like this by collecting all kinds of information, including developing research on:

  1. Different coping strategies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including illness concepts that are culturally specific.
  2. Effects of the pandemic on usual psychiatric care in the affected countries, focusing especially on vulnerable populations like refugees, migrants, and minorities.
  3. Specific consequences and disorders originating from the pandemic and the response strategies pursued for its containment.
  4. Targeted treatments and intervention programs, including the integration of mental healthcare strategies in the different levels of health systems.
  5. Changes in the epidemiology of psychiatric disorders caused by the pandemic, and of access to care and medication.
  6. Psychiatric care and psychosocial intervention for survivors of COVID-19 and their family members.
  7. Cultural differences that should be integrated in the prevention and control of the pandemic, such as attitudes about wearing masks.

The Chairs of the SIG: Hans Rohlof (Leiden, NL), Jianzhong Yang (Kunming, PRC), Mao-Sheng Ran (Hong Kong, HKSAR), Geert Smid (Amsterdam, NL), Tsuyoshi Akiyama (Tokyo, Japan).

I.  Culture and Psychiatric Assessment and Diagnosis

Chair(s)/Membership: Hans Rohlof. Co-chairs: Sofie Bäärnhielm, Vasudeo Paralikar.

Mission/goal: This SIG will focus on the challenges of performing culturally valid assessment and diagnosis in clinical care. We will advance the overall mission of WACP by improving knowledge and skills in these areas. There will be a special focus on the use of the Cultural Formulation Interview in diverse countries and populations.

Activities in the past year: none

Planned activities during the next year: 

  • In 2020 there will be a symposium on Culture and Psychiatric Diagnosis and a plenary lecture on Culture and Psychiatric Evaluation during the WACP conference in Shanghai.
  • The SIG will develop activities in the field of cultural competent diagnostics. The idea is to keep up with the scientific literature in 2020, and in recent years. In addition, we will investigate any initiatives to improve culturally competent diagnostics in practice or on a more scientific basis.
  • Finally, the SIG will propose the kind of research that is needed to expand the scientific evidence in this area, and we will try to find funding for this research.

II. Trainees and Students

Chair: William Affleck


  • build on-the-ground research capacity in transcultural psychiatry;
  • to increase training in cultural psychiatry to students in clinical mental health fields;
  • to increase the number of WACP trainee members from the Global South and from marginalized communities of the Global North.

Planned Activities:

  • The student/trainee meetup was a successful event last conference (over 75% of attending student/trainees came), so we had planned to do that again.
  • Mario (president-elect, WCPRR editor in chief) and I also discussed organizing special conference proceedings or journal issue for “early-career clinical scientists” (or similar) because some students had mentioned feeling excluded by the clinical emphasis of the conference theme.
  • We’d also discussed starting a Gmail account for SIG correspondence with student/trainee members (e.g., event announcements and etc). In the past, I was just sending emails from my account, but it was MUCH more effective than advertising on Facebook or LinkedIn.

III. Family and Culture

Chairs: Vincenzo Di Nicola and Riyadh al Baldawi.

Mission/goal: To bring together WACP members interested in cultural aspects of families and family therapy as a focus of clinical practice, policy, research, study, and training in cultural psychiatry. Our focus on families and family therapy arises from the important parallels between the emphasis of family therapy and cultural psychiatry on the contextual and relational aspects of psychology, psychiatry, and the psychotherapies (all broadly defined). Topics of special focus may include migrant and refugee families and the transgenerational impacts of migration and trauma.

Activities in the past year: we have organised two worldwide webinars, on 9/30/21 with the topic: Family and Culture in Times of Globalization – Mobility, Migration and Virtual Relations, and on 4/2/22 with the topic: Culrue, Families and Psychosis. These webinars are still on view on our website: see the News page.

Planned activities during the next year: More webinars will follow. Next to this, we will organize several symposiums on the Triannual WACP World Conference in Rotterdam, september 2022.

IV. Cultural Psychiatry, Mental Health and Human Rights

Chair: Albert Persaud

Members: Rachel Tribe, Samrad Ghane, Hans Rohlof


Phase 1: Production of a WACP Policy Statement on Cultural Psychiatry, Mental Health and Human Rights

Phase 2: Production of a set of WACP Quality Standards for practical use.

Timescale: Aim for formal launch at the WACP 6th World Congress 2021- the Netherlands : Europe. Value to WACP:

  • Escalate and position WACP as a global influence, adding to the reservoir of knowledge and expertiseaimed at improving the outcome and experience of people living with mental illness. Strengthening the influence of cultural psychiatry in mental health care and health systems development overall.
  • make WACP as an active global reference and partner in the formulation of policies, legislation, research and clinical practice.
  • create opportunities for publications, conferences and media profile across all disciplines.
  • provide WACP members with a set of tools and best practice to help them improve their knowledge, skills and care for patients living with a mental illness. Could develop a forum for mental health professionals to network across geographical regions and to build clinical expertise as mental healthcare providers.

V. Culture, Stigma and Discrimination

Chair(s)/Membership: Maosheng Ran (Chair, China)

Membership: Jie Li (China); Albert Persaud (London, UK); Open, please write to me at maoshengr@gmail.com


Stigma of mental illness has been viewed as a significant cause of discrimination and exclusion for persons with mental illness. The manifestation of stigma of mental illness and discrimination toward persons with mental illness may vary from a cultural perspective. Stigma of mental illness and discrimination toward persons with mental illness are common throughout the world and result in a range of negative adversities, such as influence on the treatment negatively and worsen outcomes of persons with mental illness. Stigma of mental illness and discrimination toward persons with mental illness should be investigated and analyzed within their sociocultural context for the purpose of understanding their origins, meanings and effects, and developing culture-specific anti-stigma interventions. The Culture, Stigma and Discrimination SIG aims to facilitate the research on culture, stigma and discrimination, improve understanding of their relationship and impacts, and facilitate the culture-specific interventions for reducing stigma and discrimination in various societies. This SIG will extend the mission of the WACP by providing a forum for clinicians and researchers reducing stigma and discrimination toward persons with mental illness in various cultural societies to enhance the mental health.

Activities in the past year: N/A, this is a new SIG

Planned activities during the next year:

  • Recruit members from within WACP
  • Advertise WACP and this SIG to related organizations (e.g., World Psychiatric Association, Chinese Association of Mental Health, etc.)
  • Publish a newsletter of recent articles and member updates
  • Organize a symposium for international conference (e.g., Shanghai 2020 meeting, etc.)

VI. Culture and Sexuality

Chair: Dr. Vasudeo Paralikar; membership is open.

Mission/goal: Sexual matters are deeply personal and intimate yet hold a crucial position in the interpersonal and social spheres; they have a profound impact on mental and social health. Culture influences every aspect of sexuality (development, orientation, attitudes, preferences, and behavior) and defines our sex-related concepts of normality, morality, and legality. Globalization, and the impact of media and internet, are spearheading dramatic changes in how sexuality is experienced, expressed, and practiced, as well as in the way potential offenders are treated. This interest group will explore the relationship between culture and sexuality and the implications of this relationship in clinical practice and public health. Among other topics, it will focus on sexual development, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual preferences, and their interface with clinical, legal, and societal issues.

Activities in the past year: Not applicable; this is a new SIG

Activities planned:

  • Provide a platform to discuss key topics related to sexuality and culture, such as cross-cultural sexual development, definitions of sexual psychopathology and methods of clinical management, legal issues pertaining to sexuality, and social theory and evolutionary significance of sexual phenomena.
  • Develop written and web-based products (e.g., webinars) to disseminate evidence-based commentary and guidelines regarding all aspects of education, parenting, clinical work, and research on sexuality and culture, including tools that can help individuals to navigate their sexualities in their cultural contexts.
  • Plan collaborative research on sexuality and culture, such as on cultural assessment tools for sexual phenomena, approaches for cultural formulation of sexual health problems, cross-cultural approaches to treat sexual dysfunctions and paraphilias, and clarifications of cultural psychiatry frameworks regarding sexuality.

VII. Culture and Biomedicine

Chair: Daina Crafa

Mission/goal: One assumption in the biomedical sciences is that big data will improve the understanding of individual differences and population diversity. A problem with this assumption is that it downplays the profound role that sociocultural environments and experiences play in shaping individuals. Through understanding differences more completely across cultures and within cultures, scientists and clinicians are better equipped to describe and address psychiatric phenomenon. The Culture and Biomedicine SIG aims to structure core discussions surrounding the relevance of culture and social phenomena for psychiatric biomedical models, clinical approaches, and research. This SIG will extend the mission of the WACP by providing a forum for clinicians and researchers working with biomedical models, the neurosciences, and technological approaches to culture and mental health.

Activities in the past year: Not applicable, this is a new SIG

Planned activities during the next year:

  • Recruit members from within WACP,
  • Advertise WACP and this SIG to related organizations (e.g., Social and Affective Neuroscience),
  • Publish a newsletter of recent articles and member updates,
  • Develop and publish ideas for responsible integration of biomedical technologies in Global Mental Health.

VIII. Arts, Mental Health & Human Rights

Chairs: Erminia Colucci and Alberto Velasco. This SIG is open for new members.

Mission/Goals: Initiate and support activities that enhance the integration of arts and arts-based methods in the tradition of cultural psychiatry, such as organizing themed conferences, symposia, film programs, theatre performances and exhibitions.

  • Create a network of members interested in exploring the potentials of arts-based methods in research and healing practices.
  • Support the involvement of collaborators from the arts and the media (including “consumers” who are also art practitioners) in the Cultural Psychiatry’s discourse and developments;
  • Create a network of artists willing to work with mental health institutions
  • Promote new interfaces between cultural and mental health institutions
  • Facilitate art access as a human right for mental health patients.
  • Promote our arts-based healing practices, perspectives and methods.

Planned activities for next three years:

  • Website or inclusion of a webpage within WACP website: contacts, network and member activities.
  • Develop contacts with health institutions, artists and arts-based organizations, and funding bodies.
  • Constitute a network of members and other collaborators.
  • Offer educational opportunities (e.g. short-courses) for individuals and organizations interested in the subject.
  • Organize a one–day workshop in Paris on 2021-22 based on SIG’s results
  • Co-author an edited book on Arts, mental illness and human rights with contribution from other WACP SIG members.

IX. Culturally Adapted Interventions

Chair: Shanaya Rathod, Muhammad Irfan and Laura Ospina Pinillos


X. Ethnic Minorities in Cultural Change

Chair: Xudong Zhao


XI. Global Issues Affecting Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Chair: Rachel Tribe