The 27th e- National Conference of the Indian Association for Social Psychiatry, 2021 was organized by the Department of Psychiatry, AIIMS, Delhi on 24th January 2021 under the guidance of the IASP executive committee helmed by Prof Indira Sharma. Prof R K Chadda, Head, Department of Psychiatry and Chief, NDDTC was the Organizing Chairperson and Prof Mamta Sood was the Organizing Secretary of the Conference. It was a half day conference conducted online. The registration of the conference was free. The programme consisted of the inaugural function, presidential address, theme symposium and valedictory function. The theme of the conference was COVID-19 Pandemic and Social Psychiatry.

The conference started with inaugural function. Prof PC Joshi, the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University inaugurated the conference. He commended the theme as very timely. He talked about the psychosocial problems and issue of inequity in light of the pandemic. He also highlighted the issues of health care workers and students. He talked about the importance of self-care, coping and social support. Prof Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS addressed the gathering, and emphasized the importance of reaching out to patients and in particular about providing remote access. He also pointed out that the pandemic provided an immense advocacy opportunity for mental health as its importance was being realized at all levels. Prof Indira Sharma, President, IASP welcomed delegates and paid homage to Prof BS Chavan, President Elect of IASP and Dr. Jhanwar, fellow of IASP and detailed their contributions to the profession and the association. A book titled “COVID-19 Pandemic & Mental Health: Organizing Services at a Tertiary Care Institute” was released by Prof Indira Sharma. Prof RK Chadda, an editor of the book and the Chairperson of the Organizing Committee introduced the book as comprising of the innovative mental health work done at AIIMS as India’s go-to hospital for dealing with all issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The book contains details of innovative service developments, guidelines, preventive efforts, wellness initiatives led by the Department of Psychiatry, AIIMS; as well as reprints of COVID-related articles published by members of the Department.

Prof Indira Sharma then delivered her presidential address on “Custody of Children of Women with Mental Illness: He Wants the Baby, but not the Mother.” The session was chaired by Prof R K Chadda and Prof Pratap Sharan. She highlighted the issues faced by women with severe mental illnesses in relation to marital separation and child custody. She etched out the emotional, economic and social deprivation faced by the mother and the child in face of the spousal/parental ‘abandonment.’ She highlighted legal points in relation to this and made recommendations regarding how judiciary should be sensitized to the needs of these women and children so that they get adequate protection. She had specific suggestions for the judiciary about how to evaluate divorce cases in relation to women with SMI.

The presidential address was followed by the theme symposium titled “COVID 19 Pandemic and Social Psychiatry” under the Chairpersonship of Prof Roy Abraham Kallivayalil and Prof Mamta Sood. Prof Kallivayalil stated that social psychiatry should show the path and lead the way in dealing with mental health issues related to the cOVID-19 pandemic. In particular, he emphasized the need for generating evidence to guide the response.

In the symposium, Prof Debasish Basu, HOD, PGIMER, Chandigarh and Editor of the World Social Psychiatry provided an overview of the theme: “COVID 19 Pandemic and Social Psychiatry.” In a lyrical presentation, Prof Basu took parallels from Camus’s Plague to drive home the lessons that should impact our response to pandemics; specially in relation to social distancing; eco-social determinants and inequities; and the role of media and world citizenship. Dr Rohit Verma, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at AIIMS, New Delhi spoke on “Practical Considerations in the Clinical Practice of Psychiatry during the COVID 19 Pandemic.” He detailed the developments in relation to telepsychiatry at AIIMS from the adaptation of the telemedicine guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for mental health to the inception of the telepsychiatry services for clinical purposes, and then to tele-crisis response, tele-monitoring, tele-wellness and tele-rehab. He mentioned how telepsychiatry services were directed at various populations and how various forms of social media were utilized in these interventions. In underlining the importance of ethics and law in relation to tele-mental health, he highlighted the importance of documenting tele-interactions, e.g. optimal prescription documentation. While speaking on “Caring for the Cares (Health Care Workers),” Prof Pratap Sharan reviewed evidence in relation to caring for HCW during the pandemic. He stated that it is evident that there is an increase in mental health issues among health care workers during the pandemic and that the problems are likely to persist beyond it. He pointed out the inconsistencies in the evidence accumulated thus far, and the lack of focus on important questions in relation to caring for HCWs. He also brought out the alarming lack of evidence in relation to interventions for tackling the burgeoning mental ill health epidemic.  Dr. Varghese P Punnoose, Professor of Psychiatry at Govt Medical College Alappuzha; incoming Secretary General of IASP attempted to chart the future path for Psychiatry in light of the COVID-19 pandemic drawing upon the rich experience of Kerala in dealing with the pandemic. He expounded on how remote-services and distance learning (including innovative examination methods) were implemented and how hybrid methods would stay beyond the end of the pandemic. He emphasized that the mental health fraternity had achieved better recognition of mental health issues by authorities and other specialties. In addition, he mentioned that personalized apps for assessment, monitoring and treatment are becoming popular and we need to focus on their quality. Finally, Prof. Indira Sharma, President IASP spoke on the “Lessons learned from the COVID Experience,” where she emphasized the importance of balanced reporting; ‘reasonable’ social distancing/ quarantine procedures (e.g., phased lockdown) and use of masks; the need to revamp the medical sector, to care for HCWs, the continuation of routine care for service users and economic activity for all workers. She also emphasized the need for monitoring/regulating health care products, hybrid teaching methods and better utilization of manpower.

Professor Mamta Sood, Secretary general of IASP, summarized the proceeding of the symposium, emphasized its important conclusions, and drew it to close.

This was followed by a valedictory function in which newly elected office bearers and EC members were welcome.

President: Prof Pratap Sharan (New Delhi)
President Elect: Dr UC Garg (Agra)
Vice President: Prof R K Solanki (Jaipur)
Secretary General: Prof Punnoose Varghese (Kottayam)
Treasurer: Dr. Gauri Shankar Kaloiya (Delhi)

EC Members:

1. Dr. Tushar Jagawat
2. Dr. Joice Geo
3. Dr. Jitender Aneja
4. Dr. Indla Ramasubba Reddy
5. Dr. Rohit Verma
6. Dr. K.K. Mishra
7. Dr. Shikha Tyagi
8. Dr. Koushik Sinha Deb

The President, IASP handed over the medallion Prof Pratap Sharan, the new President of IASP. The conference was concluded after that.

Prof Mamta Sood,
Secretary General,
IASP
Date:24th January, 2021