WFSAD Conference Spurs Family Movement!
On a beautiful, warm sunny day in Kyoto, Japan, WFSAD the World Fellowship for Schizophrenia and Allied Disordersand ZenkarenThe National Federation of Families with the Mentally Ill in Japanconvened their Joint Conference, The Power of the Family Movement: Catalyst for Change. Some 2,800 delegates gathered in the vast hall of the Kyoto International Conference Centre, including 75 overseas participants from 22 countries. The conference, which ran from October 9 to 12, 2002, gave a significant impulse to family organizations around the world.
This was WFSADs 5th Biennial Conference. At the previous conference, held in Jerusalem in 2000, most international participants came from Europe and Africa, but this time round, a majority were from India and East Asia. The countries represented in Kyoto were Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, India, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Malta, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Kenya, Korea, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Uganda, United Kingdom and the U.S.A.
Zenkaren is the worlds oldest mental health family organization, having been founded in 1965. It has more than 1,600 affiliated local groups with 120,000 members from all parts of Japan. Zenkaren recently succeeded in having the Japanese word for schizophrenia changed from a very pejorative term to a word more reflective of todays knowledge of mental illnessTougo-schiccho-sho (in English, disorder of the function of the mind).
October 9 was devoted to the WFSAD Members Assembly and General Meeting. The Assembly opened with a song from a member of the Korean National Family Association. Zenkarens Executive Director, Yosimori Egami, welcomed everyone to Japan, and a Japanese mental health consumer spoke. Representatives of family movements from Thailand, India, Korea, the Kyrgyz Republic and other countries then described their challenges and achievements. This was followed by free-ranging discussion of members hopes and expectations for WFSAD.
In the General Meeting, the organizations financial and other official reports were approved, and Prof. Vassily Yastrebov of the Russian Society of Psychiatrists and Stephen McCourt, CA, of Canada (as Treasurer) were elected to the Board of Directors. As well, two former presidents of WFSAD were honoured for services rendered over many years.
October 10 started with words of welcome from the City and Prefecture of Kyoto and the Japanese Ministry of Welfare & Labour. Dr. Radha Shankar, a member of WFSADs Board of Directors and a long-time activist for the mentally ill and families in India, then delivered the Keynote Address for the conference. She offered a comprehensive and inspiring review of the family movement around the world. In the afternoon, a dozen workshops led by family leaders and mental health professionals were held protecting the rights of the mentally ill, cultural diversity in family education, new developments in medications, the promise of brain bank research and other topics.
During the morning of October 11, Prof. Fred Frese III, a NAMI representative and schizophrenia survivor, told of his personal experience with the disorder, while his wife Penny presented a family perspective. As well, Syunsuke Turumi, a Harvard-educated philosopher and one of the most influential thinkers in Japan, spoke about his academic journey as a person with mental illness. Later in the day, two symposia dealt with the fight against stigma and discrimination (including SANEs recent campaign in Australia), and the progress of the family movement in countries like Argentina, Kenya and Uganda. Finally, Dr. Sean Flynn from Canada gave the inaugural Bill Jefferies Memorial Lecture, on "Recovery: Current Ideas in Clinical Practice". In the closing ceremony for the conference, WFSADs banner was passed to the delegation from India, the hosts for the 6th WFSAD Biennial Conference in November 2004.
Most sessions on Days 2 and 3 were available in both Japanese and English, and translation into Russian was provided for the Kyrgyz delegate. Hundreds of copies of WFSAD publications were distributed in the exhibit area at the Conference Centre.
Site Visit & Conference Results
October 12 was devoted to a visit to sheltered workshop operated by a local family group for the mentally ill, as well as a tour of two historic temples in Kyoto.
WFSADs 5th Biennial Conference met its goal of confirming and advancing the role of international family movement as a catalyst for change. The informal conversations among delegates at the hotel in central Kyoto were perhaps as important as the formal conference sessions. Participants left with a network of contacts and a renewed collective commitment to reducing the suffering of the mentally ill and their families. A delegate from the Philippines spoke for many when she said, "I am so inspired. That families have achieved so much both in Japan and around the world is truly remarkable."