Stigma of mental illness and COVID-19 – Cultural perspectives


Webinar sponsored by the Special Interest Groups on Culture, Stigma, and Discrimination and Cultural Psychiatry and the COVID-19 Pandemic of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry

You can watch the webinar now on:

Stigma of mental illness, a significant public health concern, has long been recognized as a major barrier to the successful treatment and recovery of persons living with mental disorders. Infectious diseases, including COVID-19, are also a crucial public health issue that can evoke fear in the general public leading to stigmatization of, and discrimination against, specific populations (e.g., quarantined people, front-line health workers, and persons living with mental disorders). Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic can cause severe psychological distress and mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Cultural contexts differ in the extent and specific characteristics of the stigma related to mental illness and COVID-19 and the strategies deployed to address them. Culturally congruent, effective interventions need to be implemented to reduce stigma related to these conditions in order to enhance public physical and mental health.

 In this webinar, which was held on 12/10.2021, we presented a synopsis of the relationship between culture and stigma associated with mental illness and COVID-19, and discuss a culturally informed framework for clinical practice, research and policy making.


Dr. Mao-Sheng Ran, MD, PhD, Chair, Culture, Stigma and Discrimination SIG, WACP

Dr. Hans Rohlof, MD, PhD, Chair, Cultural Psychiatry and the COVID-19 Pandemic SIG, WACP  

Prof. Roberto Lewis-Fernández, MD, President of WACP

Other members of the organisation: Prof. Jie Li, Dr. Joanna Zhyang, Dr. Tianming Zhang (张 天明) (China), Dr. Albert Persaud (UK). 


8.00. Welcome.

Hans Rohlof, MD, PhD, Chair, Cultural Psychiatry and the COVID-19 Pandemic SIG, WACP 

Roberto Lewis-Fernández, MD, President of WACP

Moderator: Mao-Sheng Ran, MD, PhD, Chair, Culture, Stigma and Discrimination SIG, WACP


1) 8.05 Dinesh Bhugra, MD

Emeritus Professor, Mental Health and Cultural Diversity at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London ,Past President, World Psychiatric Association

Global perspective on stigma and the pandemic, and effects on the minority groups in the UK

2) 8.20. Melanie Escaño

One of the founders of Filipino Migrants in Solidarity (FILMIS),Representative for Migrant Domestic Workers Network of the Dutch Federation of Labour Unions

Personal experiences with the pandemic and the social and psychological consequences

8.35. Questions and Answers

3) 8.45. Cécile Rousseau, MD

Professor, Division of Social and Cultural Psychiatry, McGill University, Montréal, Canada

Title: COVID related discrimination, cumulative stress and psychological distress in Canada

4) 9.00 Winnie W. S. Mak, PhD

Professor, Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Title : We are all interconnected: Tackling stigma of mental illness during COVID-19 pandemic

9.15. Questions and Answers

9.25 Conclusions. Mao-Sheng Ran, MD, PhD

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Re-conceptualizing Culture and Context to meet the Needs of a Globalizing World

Two webinars, free of charge

Organized by the Local Organizing Committee of the 6th World Congress of the World Association for Cultural Psychiatry in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

19 November 2021

During the past decades, there has been an increasing awareness of the role of culture and context in mental health service provision. With continued globalization, increased risk of global disasters, and structural inequalities, the next few decades will witness an ever-greater interest in cultural and structural factors that impact our patients’ mental health and social surrounding.  

In the run-up to the 6th World Congress of Cultural Psychiatry on 14-17 September 2022, the WACP organizes two webinars, in which four experts in the fields of cultural psychiatry and anthropology will elaborate on the topic of the congress, by addressing the following questions:

  1. What are, historically, the dominant approaches to conceptualize culture and context in theory and practice of cultural psychiatry?
  2. What are the main critiques on our current approach to culturally competent case formulation (for instance using the outline of the cultural formulation)?
  3. How can cultural case formulations be “recontextualized”, using a broader understanding of context that more rigorously takes into account the role of structural and systemic determinants of mental illness?
  4. What are the main challenges in this process?

Webinar 1:

Friday, November 19th 2021, 11 am – 12:15 pm CET


Mario Braakman, President-elect of the WACP and Professor of Transcultural Forensic Psychiatry, Tilburg University and Pro Persona, The Netherlands

Mihri Heval Özgen, Associate Professor, Leiden University Medical Centre and Parnassia Psychiatric Institute, The Netherlands



Webinar 2:

Friday, November 19th 2021, 8 – 9:15 pm CET


Laurence Kirmayer, James McGill Professor and Director, Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University, Canada

Mitchell Weiss, Professor Emeritus of Cultural Epidemiology, Swiss Tropical Institute, University of Basel, Switzerland 


The webinars will also feature short video messages by a number of WACP experts, reflecting on the theme of the upcoming congress in 2022 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The Webinars are 75 minutes each and offered to you for free by courtesy by the Dutch local organizing committee of the 6th WACP World Congress and the Board of the WACP. Registration is required to participate

World Association of Cultural Psychiatry

President: Roberto Lewis-Fernández


Co-Chairs: Vincenzo Di Nicola and Riyadh Al-Baldawi

Free Webinar

“Family and Culture in Times of Globalization – Mobility, Migration and Virtual Relations

Presenter: MARIA BORCSA, PhD

Past President, European Family Therapy Association (EFTA)

Professor, Institute of Social Medicine, Rehabilitation Sciences and Healthcare Research
University of Applied Sciences – Nordhausen, Germany

Discussant: FANNY MARELL, MSc

Past President, Stockholm Society of Family Therapy

Board Member, International Bateson Institute, Stockholm, Sweden


9:00-10:30 AM ET (New York time) – 3:00-4:30 PM Central European Time

Artist: Jaswant Guzder –

Technical assistance: Hans Rohlof

Free registration: click on the link below

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Jie Li, Muzi Li

Guangzhou Huiai Hospital, China

Guided by developments in the social sciences, the field of psychiatry has become increasingly aware of the importance of culture. Its centrality has become even clearer as a key component of the bio-psycho-social medical model, which argues that every human being is not only influenced by biology and psychology, but is also a social being, a cultural being. For psychiatrists and psychologists, literacy in the humanities has become a necessity.  “As there is no health without mental health, there can be no psychiatry (or no medicine) without culture” (Becker & Kleinman, 2014). In particular, the rapid growth of globalization has promoted international communication and immigration. This trend has brought new perspectives to the understanding of mental health problems, including the urgent need to provide culturally adapted mental health services to people from diverse cultural backgrounds. In 2007, British scholars BHUGRA Dinesh and BHUI Kamaldeep invited over 50 distinguished colleagues from around the world to compile the first comprehensive textbook in this field, entitled The Textbook of Cultural Psychiatry. This book indicates the maturity of the field of cultural psychiatry and is a sign of its growth in Western countries.

In China, cultural psychiatry has been growing since its first development during the “Reform and Opening-up Period” under the leadership of the Section of Ethnic Psychology and Psychiatry (EPP), an affiliated group of the Chinese Society of Psychiatry. The EPP has successfully conducted numerous research studies on both theoretical and practical levels. In order to consolidate the theoretical model of cultural psychiatry for clinicians and scholars, and to equip specialists with the most up-to-date information, Guangzhou Mental Health Center (aka Guangzhou Huiai Hospital) was honored to host international experts in cultural psychiatry and psychotherapy, including Drs. Roberto Lewis-Fernández and Mario Braakman, current president and president-elect of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry (WACP), at the 2019 Cultural Psychiatry and Global Mental Health Conference held in Guangzhou City on November 11th -12th 2019.

This interdisciplinary conference covered topics in psychiatry, clinical psychology, cultural anthropology, and public mental health. Distinguished experts and scholars in cultural psychiatry and related disciplines from the United States, the Netherlands, and China attended the conference, which hosted more than 300 psychiatrists, public health physicians, clinical psychologists, social workers, and community mental health workers from Guangdong and Gansu provinces.

At the opening ceremony, Professor Jie Li, director of the Guangzhou Crisis Research and Intervention Center, Dr. Qiaoyang Fan, vice-director of the Department of Disease Control at the Health Commission of Guangzhou, and Dr. Hongbo He, vice-president of the Guangzhou Huiai Hospital gave presentations. The opening ceremony was hosted by Dr. Suhua Zhao, vice-director of the Community Psychiatric Department of Guangzhou Huiai Hospital. Ms. Muzi (Nina) Li from the Community Psychiatry Department served as the chief interpreter.

During the two-day conference, presentations were delivered by the current president of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry (WACP), Professor Roberto Lewis-Fernández from the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, the president-elect of WACP; Professor Mario Braakman from Tilburg University; Professor Jie Li from Guangzhou Huiai Hospital; Dr. Shawn Hou, chief psychologist of the American Psychological Service Center; Dr. Yu Pang, vice-president of Beijing Huilongguan Hospital; and Professor Cheng Yu from the department of sociology and anthropology at Sun Yat-sen University, along with other scholars. Topics included the cultural classification of mental disorder, ethno-psychopharmacology, stigma and mental disorders, the application of the DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview in Chinese family therapy, social and cultural factors in psychological crisis intervention, and mental health and medical humanities.

The conference emphasized the need to combine public mental health services with related disciplines such as clinical psychology and cultural anthropology in order to provide better mental health care. A main topic of the conference was on disseminating the concepts of cultural psychiatry in order to address some of the limitations of focusing exclusively on biological psychiatry. An integrated approach can build a bridge between social sciences and psychiatry, highlighting the importance of humanistic care.

Conference organizers received very positive feedback after the event. Participants noted the richness of the program and the multiple opportunities for learning; the conference was felt to broaden participants’ horizons, encouraging them to pursue an interest in cultural psychiatry and humanistic care. Attendees felt better prepared to provide quality services to individuals with mental disorders, as well as to their communities and to society at large.                                                                          



                                                             November 11th, 2019