Message from the President

WFMH President Ahmed El Azayem

The biennial conference in Santiago, Chile, has passed. It proved to be a valuable opportunity for the exchange of knowledge. Users played a prominent role during the Chile events, and moved their concerns high on the agenda. Progress was made at the WFMH Board meetings before and after the Congress, especially regarding the careful selection of priorities.

We are already looking forward to the next WFMH World Congress, the first of the coming millenium, in Vancouver, Canada (22-27 July 2001). The theme will focus on diversity and mental health, to address cultural differences and the importance of recognizing them in mental health policies. Building tolerance for diversity has been a part of WFMH programs since 1990.

The retirement of an eminent figure in the Federation, our Secretary General, Professor Eugene B. Brody, has created a structural change in our leadership. Professor Marten deVries has accepted the position of Secretary General on a part-time basis, devoting two days per week to WFMH work, while the Secretariat led by Richard Hunter continues to function at its Alexandria, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland locations in the United States. Dr. Brody will maintain his interest in WFMH as Senior Consultant.

At this time special thanks are due to Past President Beverly Long for her commitment to our strategic planning initiative, now in its third year. This initiative supported the leadership transition which has taken place, and has set goals and priorities for implementation. We also thank Dr. John Gates, who has just ended his term as Treasurer. He worked hard to raise the funds from the MacArthur Foundation which enabled WFMH to place a mental health advisor at the World Bank to support health policy development.

The presidency of Marten deVries has left its imprint on the Federation. He was the organization’s leader during our 50th anniversary celebration, a campaign to draw attention to mental health issues. This expanded after the meeting of our Committee of International Women Leaders in Helsinki, Finland, in 1997 into a series of educational conferences around the world in 1998. These meetings carried forward his focus on “Partners for Mental Health” which he introduced at our Maastricht conference in March 1998. He also supported the development of our network of users, recognizing the importance of their participation in WFMH international meetings and of their internet communications.

Marten has given special attention to developing sources of information about mental health on the Internet on behalf of WFMH. In addition to WFMH’s home site, established and maintained by the Baltimore office of the Secretariat, he supports Mental Health Network, a large health information site based in Maastricht, and the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Council site which I have developed from my Cairo office These web sites, together with a growing international consumers’ network are now collaborating together to develop a stronger Internet presence.

I hope that in the next two years I will be able to work with our member organizations to bring together groups with special interests such as human rights, provision of mental health services, and substance abuse prevention. Mental health promotion should also have an important place. To develop such clusters of organizations with shared interests I intend to send a questionnaire to all of our member organizations. I will look forward to your replies, which should also help with a review of the structure of our regional councils to make them more representative. Every one of us will have a role in reaching our common goals.

Best regards,

Ahmed El Azayem's Signature

Ahmed El Azayem

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