Well we heard from great people, Mahela Jayawardene Sri Lankan cricket captain, we heard from Dr.Darshan, we heard from many people. And Mahela mentioned about facing difficult situations and stressors and he admitted the following by saying that you got to be ready, you got to be prepared to face the reality situations. Then we spoke to this associate, I asked her what she was doing and she said she was helping Dr. Darshan Perera and then she said she is going to do her Ph.D. in Psychology in U.S. And I asked her what she wants to do after that and she said that she would like to join an organization which works for the benefit of many people not one person, or perhaps for a NGO like WHO. She probably didn’t realize that when World Health Organization was established in 1940s, the greatest themes in that organization was Humanistic Psychology by Maslow. So there’s great connection and she might probably study much more than I know. And also I was talking to Prof. Jerome Carson this morning and its strange that we have been working at the same place for a number of years in UK in London, perhaps I was a little earlier than him and met many people who have worked together and we talked about the connections, again we are talking about Well-being, we are talking about connections and about sharing things.
So we come to our theme of today Mental Well-being. And when I was reading this I realizedthat there’s a ray of topics, mindfulness, dyslexia, dental problems, dementia, whole heap of problems. And I found in process that there’s a colleague from Hungaria, presenting Monika Albu on Mindfulness. And I looked back in 1976 when I was working with a Hungarian Molecular Biologist who developed a famous theory and he developed a drug which probably could control or treat depression. He was actually a Research Assistant in London. So it’s interesting how after so many years people coming from very different areas are coming back to very similar activities.
So this is where I spent some time in the hills in Diyatalawa, this is the view when you get up in the morning from the bedroom and this is also the area called the Happy Valley, actually now it’s called Diyatalawa. It was founded by a man called Samuel Landon. He is a Wesleyan Missionary from UK who arrived in 1988 to establish his reformities. He was very fond of helping poor people and children and he named it Happy valley from there onwards.
And today I thought I like to convey four messages this morning. The first being the well-being and essential components of Human life. As we mentioned many times, an important component for human development. I will talk about it little later as we go on.
The second message is health, well-being and mental well-being are rich holistic concepts; they are very rich areas central to personal growth and community development. And I think I don’t have to tell you, many of you here, probably who are much more competent in this area than I am because they have been doing psychology for a long time. But I am looking at this from a very broad perspective.
The third area I want to convey the message in which is enhancing factors of well-being. What are the factors that determine the well-being and what are the factors that enhances, since Dr.Darshan was talking about enhancing factor. And how do we modify these things? By social means or by other means.
And the last is situation in Sri Lanka we are facing, and people like Dr.Darshan and Dr.Shavindra and many other people who are here and many of you would have to probably get together and respond to this.
Now during the last ten years or so I have been working in psychiatry since 1974 but even today is a challenge like we see these people because it’s always a new problem they come with which we haven’t had solutions to we have all the new drugs used in psychiatry or during therapies but many of these things don’t seem to be answering many problems that we are facing. But the fact is that the people want answers to these questions. And if you look at Sri Lanka, during the last twenty to thirty years individuals, practitioners and institutions have come up with all kinds of problems and responses and so are the development organizations internationally. Now meditation in Sri Lanka has become a huge practice during the last twenty to thirty years. At all levels meditation is not confined to religion only, many people who are in their 40s and 50s take part in these activities. In fact when Deepak Chopra came in, he had a lecture in this hall, BMICH, and got the impression that in people’s lives that emotional mental well-being or mental health or whatever the term that you use. And if you look at the industry in Sri Lanka a man called Deepal Sooriyaarachchi some of you might know, goes to various companies and has these retreats and relaxation stress management kind of techniques so it has evolved quite a lot and it’s interesting. A place that our neighbors in Diyatalawa owned by a German, he has a retreat this is a very big center. Every three weeks a German group of People comes and spends time here for Ayurvedic treatment and relaxation, vegetarian food and all kinds of things like that. And this is a small hospital in Diyatalawa where there’s a different psychiatrist every month. These people, who come to the mental health clinic and discuss their issues because, see twenty years ago as I heard that people talk about their problems with others but here they are in it. And once a month they come and sell their stuff in the hospital car park so all the people in the hospital would buy. You probably wouldn’t believe there are number of committee organizations one is positive mind job. You know there are religious organizations, there are ayurvedic organizations there are organizations based on western psychology are talking about psychological names providing services in Sri Lanka.
And this is one of the very old mental hospitals in Colombo, you would see just outside hundred yards away from here now it’s called Arcade Independence. Arcade was the finest Mental Hospital in Asia at that time. They wanted to build the biggest or the best asylum. Now people come and enjoy their lives here. In fact the old mental hospital Angoda in Sri Lanka has renamed now it’s called the National Institute of Mental Health although it continues to treat seriously mentally ill people. And we have research activities, professional activities, WHO workshops and there was this interesting paper about social stability in Sri Lanka. All I’m trying to tell you is that there’s lot of activity going on which we are not familiar with so what I’m saying is the Sri Lankan psychiatrist working in England has done a study on Well-being. And then we come to this other aspect of the international organizations which focus on well-being. If it’s at the UN, Dr.Darshan was talking about sustainable development UN report on global development and sustains approved on September, one goal is promotion of mental health. In all these reports they talk about the goal of well-being not the money not the personal capital income not the economy.
And I would come to the most important aspect of that mental well-being was thought to be happiness, enjoyment, contentment and all but it is much more than that. It is essentially mental well-being because it is a major issue in promoting personal growth, how productive you are going to be, how well you are going to be, how resilient you are going to be. You are going to be sharing networking meaningful purposeful and connected life so that’s about mental well-being and mental health development including social capital. Then of course the standard things that we are familiar with in mental health problems and mental illnesses physical illnesses by early detection or the compliance with the medical advice or whatever it may be, the impact of the illness and treatment and most importantly the last point is effectiveness. I was with a wonderful person who was called Jonathan. He is at London and he has shown how early intervention in conduct disorders in a certain bars in London showed the reduction of mental health problems conduct disorders later in life. So that is a beautiful piece of work. So now we know mental, physical and social functioning are interdependent and all these are related to each other. All societies have a concept of mental health although they don’t use the term mental health; they might be using other terms. Now my discussion on mental health, I was trying to find another Sri Lankan word for it, it’s very difficult to find one. And one person suggested the term “Sapa Saneepa” you know does it portray or convey the meaning of well-being. But those are the issues we struggle with. My point of behavior related and, mental health is all individual or families or communities and it’s not only professions. We saw the judges, the lawyers, we saw the business people talking about these issues. So my topic, the important concept of well-being is relevant to self-development and personal growth. And of course most of these studies have come from the west specially during the 1940’s and 1950’s, but we must not forget that most of the people who came up with these issues also had the experience in the east, they didn’t only work in Switzerland or France or Germany, people of public health and people spent time in China, Russia. So that had some other experiences. And also it has come from various other sources on the new public health movement which is initiated in 1974 by a man called Mando in Canada. I’m not going to go into it, because it is very different to what I’m talking about. Then the public health movement, which is also a new one which is different from the individual act.
Positive psychology many of you know by Prof. Martin Seligman and various groups of people who went on earlier ideas towards positive psychology rather than treating the ill people, disease concept they talked about the well people or the personal development. Neurochemistry is a big area where so many people started connecting the brain chemistry with the environment; people got Nobel prizes. For instance concepts on neuroplasticity where people said that it was shown that there are changes happening in the brain chemistry and brain cells based on the inputs from the society and different stimuli. And of course in epidemiology where people felt that maternal mortality infant mortality is no more, other things are also important like this global burden, and things like that where it was shown that mental health or mental health morbidity or mental health problems can take a huge shrunk of burden of the global burden of health problems. Then of course we have a number of organizations and institutes and agencies which concentrates only on well-being, there’s one in Cambridge in U.K, you probably know about it, considerable number of agencies, institutions and organizations, for example Seligman’s institute, and there are number of people who have developed this area and we have got evidence from them.
So I come to my second point, well-being and mental health are rich holistic concepts. That’s the second point I would like to convey. Three people are very important. A man called Siegrist from Zurich, then the second person is Stampar from Yugoslavia, he was the first President of the World Health Assembly and most importantly Brock Chisholm who was a psychiatrist, who was the first Director General of the World Health Organization. He was a unique character because he has fought in both world wars, WW I and WW II, and also he was the medical director of the army who was also responsible for recruiting people for the armed forces and he became very influential in developing this concept of Health. And of course Abraham Maslow Humanistic psychologist, all of you know him, and the interesting thing is we talked about health as complete of mental social and physical well-being and not only the absence of disease. What does it mean? You know once one of the director generals of the WHO called Marlon, asked Brock Chisholm what do you really mean by health? He said all I can refer is to the experience I had, when I was involved in the war. I read the text fascinating, “ I have experienced this complete physical, mental and social well-being many times as a partisan when I decided to risk my life for something I thought was vitally important, namely freedom from occupation. Complete physical well-being, in that I as an individual could make a difference against a huge army of occupation. Complete mental well-being, in that I fully realized my existential freedom by deciding to risk my life for something vitally important. And complete social well-being, in that I knew that I should not come back alive somebody might from my partisan group would take care of my family.” I mean that was a fascinating statement and so in facing death this partisan maintained that he had experienced an innate transcendental meaning of WHOs definition. That’s why I said it’s a very rich concept. It’s not a too simple thing that we think of. And we come to the basis of that, the basis of this is essentially innate human potential. The concept which has evolved in the western world during the last centuries actually and then again highlighted in 1940s, why public health professionals, social medical people, World War I & II experience and humanistic psychology movement to realize the heavy potential of this people living in a community and these two things are connected: Individual and the community. That is the message that I would like to convey by this rich work.
And we come to the second concept, mental health and well-being concept. Now what is well-being? Again different people will come with different approaches, but one is this usual pleasure pain happiness and hedonic approach. And the other one is a more complicated more rich eudemonic approach. You talk about a much bigger range of activities focused on meaning and self-realization and as a source to fully functioning this society. So this is a very rich meaning than the pleasure principle and generally that’s the word that you talk about, that’s the theme the understanding we have when we talk about it. And in fact Seligman In one of his writings he has compared that to the Buddhist word, “Suka” talked about the morality, the cultivation of mental balance and the understanding of the nature phenomenon to this term of it. And also we recognized ones kinship with all others and help others develop stages of well-being. So it’s a community individual relationship. Whereas, in this part of the world we always talked about the community aspect of it not so much the individual saying that’s the south Asian philosophy or the Buddhist philosophy which I don’t agree with, I think ultimately both these things matter quite a bit.
What do we really mean by mental well-being? Dr.Darshan has talked about sustainability andit is important to develop their potential productively creatively build strong and positive relationships with others and contribute to the community. And if it enhances better, individual is able to fulfill the personal and social morals. And of course have a sense of achievement. Are you content? Do you have energy sense of purpose? How do you deal with bad days? Are you progressing as your plan? So some days some of these organizations have different models put in different ways we talked about the harmony alignment of the body and spirit. And how do you achieve well-being? All of us have our own ways of doing it but generally we talk about identifying and realizing the aspirations of a person, what do you acquire. And to satisfy your aspirations, to satisfy the needs and how do you bring about achievement or adopt to a mixed situation. Well-being is natural there’s no one who likes to be angry or hostile or uncomfortable. All of us like to be in a happy state, pleasant state, comfortable state. So well-being is what people call a natural phenomenon. How can I enhance my well-being, what should I do to feel content and balanced, a simple but radical question because asking this shifts are whole perspective. We are no longer looking to our health care providers. Governments, food companies tell us what we need to do. To listen perhaps for the first time to our body mind and spirit and evaluate fast is what makes sense and then we tune into what we need we naturally find ourselves seeking purpose security and health, as well as connections to families friends and our larger communities. It’s a profound statement but that is what it means when we talk about the rich concepts of well-being. Well in simple language well-being takes lots of people, give them compassion, generosity, gratefulness, connections with the people relationships and continuously learnt.
Now I come to third concept Mental Health. Mental Health is a simple way of looking at, it’s a foundation on which for well-being and effective function. It’s a resource. Mahela talked about, you got to be facing stressful situations, challenges, but he immediately followed it by saying you have to be ready. I think he has got the answer very nicely that you got to have energy within you, practice or skill or ability or affect or whatever that needs to react that’s the resource. And we talked about the individual and the community. Not again one person, but that’s a whole lot. And then had expanded the definition of Well-being, content, connected, secure resilient all that. And then the individual relies or potential can cope with normal stressors in the life, productive, fruitful and again contribution to the society. So we talked about the positives and as a resource it’s there but how do we now utilize that to lead a fruitful and effective life? That’s what the mental well-being is about. In contrast to mental illness, where you are ill, and you are trying to do something to make feel better. And positive mental health essentially considers mental health as a resource it is essential to subjective well-being and perceive with our surroundings to adopt to or change them necessary and to communicate with each other, have successful social interactions experience by meaningfully helping us among other things to create with creative and productive means to the society. There’s a very interesting report in UK, Prof. Carson will be aware of, defined it in a different way but I will talk about it later.
Now I come to the third area of my presentation what determines your well-being and how do you enhance the well-being? Generally we talk the determining factors and the enhancing factors that need to socialize large scale macro and then society changes that is, and then we talk about the individual psychological approaches. Generally when we talk about health, we talk about the human biology which completely neglected, we talk about the environmental factors which are responsible, lifestyle factors which are responsible. As far as the determinisms are concerned there are three aspects in the social area. Social developments and which has health education employment, housing and security. Those are the basic needs of people. To what extent do they have these? Once they have it the second concept is the social capital. The glue which it binds the society, networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate corporation within and other groups. We talked about networks. Social capital provides the glue to which facilitates cooperates exchange and innovation. And of course the environment, pleasing environment, environment like this or pleasing natural environment. So the protective factors in the society empower ethnic minority, integration, positive personal interactions, social participation in all these things came up to the world in 1994 produced by Harvard. So these are very social oriented. And of course the other people said we got to empower these people and the individuals so as to realize their mental energies but both are very influential. Discovering one’s self and how do you promote If it is a country, if you look at World Health report they talk about the macro issues and the micro issues. Macro issues are the government actions and the usual actions are essentially actions in schools, hospitals, neighborhoods, families, where you can enhance their well-being by various means.
Then I come to the individual approach. Again you are familiar with Martin Seligman’s positivity of enhancing well-being, talked about authority and he has certain lot of techniques to enhance the well-being, enhancement the creativity, bravery, kindness all kind of things like that. Davidson very cleverly talked about developing the mind. And he gave positive inspiration to people and showed the possibility. Affects or emotions can bring up changes in your perceptions and your explanation and cognitive activities how they are connected. So well-being is something very useful. Another group of people as many of you know talked about the mindfulness. Of course that is something most of you didn’t know who has borrowed the concept of mindfulness and great influence in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Reported in UK is a fascinating report that is produced very recently talked about the kind of people the United Kingdom needs in twenty years’ time to meet the social economic and cultural problems faced and how to improve and they come up with the Mindfulness. Which in a mind is used, well-being is used and it’s a fascinating report to read because it covers neurochemistry on one side and epidemy on the other side, and economics on the other side and social care on the other side.
Now i come to my last point, Sri Lankans situations, Dr.Darshan and Dr.Shavindra and manyothers who are here facing because we have a problem where there is a need, there’s a vacuum, there’s a mental health or mental well-being need it seems. That is why so many people are wanting, so many organizations are coming up and so many people are somehow or the other trying to fill this gap but its bridging part of it appropriate scientific or cost effective I don’t know. So in order to do that we have to feel that mental health is an important area. Do we attach any value to mental health or well-being? If we don’t attach any value to mental health well-being we will not allocate any resources to that. So at the highest levels you have to start talking about the mental well-being whether it’s a professional leadership or political leadership or democracy or whatever it is. And the UN has thought enough this time, in the UN Assembly concepted that they are going to approve this document where mental well-being or mental health is a whole of United Nations in the next 20 years. What are the core issues In mental well-being, what is it that we want? You got to identify what we really mean by it is the contentment in a relationship with the creativity, moral issues of the individual so you got to identify and how it is applicable to this country. It may be not be taken straightaway and put in, here you got to identify and how we need to draw it to the system. The Sri Lankan group we have faced four obstacles, I have seen first is: traditional way of thinking, our education system is an essentially collecting data and accumulating information so issues of emphasis on education and training is essentially knowledge. You have to change that into how to develop this creative energetic person, and the reluctance to creatively interpret and integrate the modern developments to the local situation. And most of our thinking in our part of the country is essentially compartment. It’s not only in Sri Lanka but in many countries, but things are changing very much. You got to start looking for holistic manner and try to reform the systems. And the other day I was listening to somebody 90, he was saying that the fascinating thing in about 15 years’ time there won’t be casinos, there won’t be clubs and all that so there’ll be a huge large number of unemployed, what are they going to do? So the society will help find solutions to those things. So you got to be ready, so we got to promote advocacy leadership, integrate and of course resources.
And I would finish by quoting Buddha “No other thing do I know, The mind when undeveloped and uncultivated inherits great sufferings.” So with that I conclude and I congratulate Dr.Darshan Perera and wish all of you a great success in this conference and welcome you on behalf of the mental health community in this country.
Thank you very much!