As the new President-Elect of the Ontario Psychiatric Association I would like to begin by thanking the council, and you, our members, for this immense privilege and honour. In preparing for this role and in writing this message, I have contemplated the question, “What does it mean to be a psychiatrist in Ontario in 2013, and what is our role as clinicians and as researchers now and in the future?”
We are currently witnessing a shift in the perception of mental illness, particularly in North America. Society is increasingly acknowledging the importance of the care provided to the mentally ill. Here in Ontario, there has been much light shed on the issue of mental health, with the Ontario Government committed to sustaining comprehensive strategies to assist people with mental illness throughout their lifespan, and to enhance the quality of integrated services that are available to these individuals. Such strategies are vitally important, as we learned that programs that fight stigma in psychiatry and encourage positive dialogue rooted in civil and human rights paradigms succeed in shifting perceptions and reversing prejudice and discrimination against the mentally ill. As psychiatrists in Ontario in 2013, we are presently called to contribute to this positive change in the conceptual paradigm of mental illness, as well as to the development and implementation of services that promote recovery.
In recent years, there have been tremendous advances made in the field of modern neuroscience that have helped demystify the brain. This information has, in turn, helped propel many advances in contemporary psychiatry, bridging the gap between empirical and interpretative psychiatry, and leading to a greater understanding of mental illness. The former belief that the 'functional' nature of the psychiatric disorders was not related to structural changes in the brain is challenged by studies exposing disruptions of brain function and underlying structural brain abnormalities in many psychiatric disorders. However, contrary to previous concerns, this scientific understanding of the biological basis of psychiatry is not eroding the magnificence and complexity of being human. Modern neuroscience does not negate psychoanalysis, but tries to explain it as a neuroplastic therapy. All of life's experiences impact our emergent mental system. It has been shown that not only does the brain shape the culture, but culture also shapes the brain.
So given these new advances in the field of psychiatry and neuroscience, and the gradual shift in society’s perception of mental illness, how can we prepare for a better future for our profession? As psychiatrists in Ontario in 2013, we are privileged to be aware of the new answers to our ceaseless quest for the relation between the biological and social. However, with this comes the responsibility to convey this rapidly emerging knowledge among our peers, to our students, and to our patients and their families. We are commissioned to develop a proper and accurate language to express the action at the interface of our layered hierarchical existence. It becomes the major challenge of our times to impede the misconception that the temporary strain of a mental illness episode cannot be overcome. As psychiatrists, we are summoned to secure patients with mental illnesses and addictions reach their best potential for recovery and become successful in the progression from the limitation of patienthood to a self-determined and meaningful life. Hope should be fostered to be a catalyst for the brain changes supporting the path of resilience. Our role within the medical profession expands in accordance to the resounding challenge of transforming the meaning of both causality and prognosis in psychiatry. As daring as this endeavor may seem, the Ontario Psychiatric Association has reached the strength to assist its members in accomplishing this vision and in preparing a better future for our profession.
President-Elect, Ontario Psychiatric Association
2015 OPA Annual Conference
April 24 & 25, 2015
The King Edward Hotel, Toronto