La Red Atenea |SUMMARY OF THE CONGRESS ON MIGRATION, MENTAL HEALTH AND TRANSCULTURALISM IN THE 21ST CENTURY

BARCELONA, OCTOBER 30 – NOVEMBER 1, 2010

The congress received the participation of 240 individuals from more than 30 countries, with a primary focus on mental health research and new migrants who experience situations of trauma brought on by aspects of migration.  This is a social phenomenon of increasing importance in recent years, that supposes a challenge at the diagnostic, clinical and assistencial levels. 

The congress was organized by an internal steering committee and financed through participant registration fees.  Most participants were young and highly motivated professionals which resulted in high turnout for the sessions (even in light of 12 hour days and the fact that the congress took place on national hoidays).  One participant in particular, from Bilbao, attended in the midst of a honeymoon. 

The congress took place in Barcelona’s historical city center, close to the gothic district and Ramblas, an area in which more than 50% of residents are migrants. The congress was atended by nationals of diverse countries including Japan, Sudan, Israel, Sweden, Canada and Chile. 

Ron Wintrob, President of the Transcultural Psichiatry Section and Rachid Benengadi, Secretary of the section, were permanently present during the organization and realization of the congress, which was a continuation of many years of the section’s work.
The congress is a continuation of ongoing work that includes research and mental health asistance to migrants in Barcelona (which began in the 1980’s). The congress included the colaboration of the University of California at Berkeley, School of Public Health.

PROGRAM
The congress included 31 symposia, 3 workshops and 6 conferences, as well as poster sessions and open comunications.  The focus of the congress was interdisciplinary and based on four conceptual areas: psychopathology and mental health, pyschosocial health, psychocultural health and new lines of research in migration and mental health.  This structure permitted an approach that examines migration and menal health through complimentary frameworks and allowed for each participant to select ‘a la carte’ those activities of most interest. 

In the area of psychopathology and mental health, 4 symposia were presented on the Ulysses Sindrome with the participation of representatives of 8 countries.  Other topics included psychopathology, invervention, children and adolescents, transcultural evaluation, and others. 

The psychosocial conceptual area included the topic of violence during migration, gender and migration, social exclusion, racism, the homeless etc. 

The ssychocultural area included symposia on identity, intercultural mediation, acculturation, and cultural competence, among others. 

Finally, the new research area included work on families, ethics, stigma, and the influence of communication technologies on the mental health of migrants. 

Three special workshops took place within the framework of the congress.  The University of California at Berkeley, School of Public Health conducted two workshops including Public Health Program Assistance to Latino Immigrants in the United States, conducted by Xochitl Castaneda and Emily Felt, and Mental Health Programs for Latino Immigrants in the US and Evaluation Scales for Determining Risk Factors in Migration and Mental Health (Ulysses Scale), conducted by Liliana Osorio and Joseba Achotegui (University of Barcelona).  The third workshop was titled Focus Groups in Qualitative Research on Migration and Mental Health, and it was directed by Ani Viladrich of the University of the City of New York. 

The inaugural conference was the first of six and was conducted by William Vega of the University of Southern California.  It concerned mental health assistance for migrants in the United States. Joseba Achotegui of the University of Barcelona also conducted a conference on the Ulysses Sindrome, Joan Obiols conducted a conference on the mental health of migrants in multicultural societies, and Sergio Vilasenor presented on the traditions associated with All Saints Day in Mexico.  Rose Marie Moro presented on psychopathology in migrant children, and during the closing conference, Rachid Benengadi presented on medical anthropology and migration.

The congress included 2 sessions presenting 46 communications and 2 poster sessions including 21 posters that spanned the four conceptual areas of the congress.

In the effort to provide congress participants with ample space for debate, discussion sessions were held following the workshops. 

SOCIAL ACTS:

The opening day of the congress was celebrated at a reception held at the Palace of the Kings of Aragon in the gothic district of Barcelona.  During the second day of the congress, a Romanian gypsy musical presentation took place, during which congress participants were able to show solidarity with one of Europe’s most discriminated mobile groups. 

Finally, the closing ceremony took place on the sea. In homage to the thousands of migrants who die during shipwrecks and other extreme circumstances during their migration, on November 1st (All Saints Day), congress participants took off from the Colon Pier at the Port of Barcelona, threw flowers into the sea, and read passages from the Odyssey and various religious texts. The closing ceremony was filmed by Spanish and foreign television and released in the press. 

During the course of the congress, participants launched the newly created Athena Network, a global network of providers of psychological and pyschosocial support for migrants in extreme situations.  The network searches for global solutions to global problems associated with migration, invoking the figure of Athena, the goddess who protected Ulysses from adversity, danger and solitude. The network was founded by the University of Barcelona, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Minkowska Center of Paris and is made up of individuals from more than 20 countries. 

Key authorities who atended the congress include Ana Terron, who serves as Minister of Migration in the Spanish government, and Oriol Aroros, Director of the Secretariat of Migration of the government of Catalonia.  The organizing committee of the congress included representatives of the Sant Pere Claver Hospital Foundation of Barcelona, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and the University of California at Berkeley, as well as the Transcultural Psychiatry Section in Paris and Dr. Obiols of Andorra, who served as the section’s secretary. 

Anecdotally, the Church of Scientology organized a protest against the congress.   
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