Let me start by giving a warm welcome to all of you.
It is the first time in 30 years that Malta is holding this European Forum of Psychiatric Trainees.
The theme chosen is “Breaking Barriers into the Future of Psychiatry”. The theme itself already indicates that there are still issues and perceptions that hamper the way forward for Psychiatry.
One of these barriers is “stigma”. The other is “prejudice”.
Looking at your programme, I see that you intend to discuss training and development in mental health practice. The topics are varied and range from early detection to treatment of psychosis, the effect on Mental Health during the pandemic, as well as the future of psychiatry and the type of care.
The aim of this Forum is for trainees and trainers to exchange experiences, to learn from each other, and apply as much as possible best practices in everyday work.
As expected, this meeting will also give you the opportunity to discuss difficulties usually encountered and to find ways how to navigate around them.
Malta has a centuries-old history and traditions of excellent medical care, including mental health care.
I am sure the Maltese delegation in presenting the report on the National Situation will give you enough details of all the structures, functions and responsibilities related to Mental Health Services in our country.
Our Mental Health Services aim to promote mental health within the Maltese society by assisting persons with mental health problems who require specialist treatment and care as well as support for their social network, as well as providing a comprehensive and integrated range of community and hospital mental health services through a specialist multi-disciplinary team.
The range of services provided includes inpatient and outpatient psychiatry services, mental health clinics in the community, outreach services, crisis resolution services, child guidance clinics, and young people’s unit, rehabilitation services, including halfway houses and community hostels.
As happened in many other countries, COVID-19 had a marked negative impact on mental health issues in the community, mostly depression, anxiety, sense of loneliness and isolation, and fear.
During the pandemic, we made maximum use of modern methods of communication to educate, to communicate, and to allay fears.
Apart from this, a very important landmark for Malta, in line with the National Mental Health Strategy launched by the Commissioner for Mental Health, was the decentralisation of the psychiatric outpatient to community clinics.
Psychiatry is now more of a community speciality, and a lot of emphasis is laid on having early intervention teams.
In Malta, training in psychiatry takes six years and is based on the UK model. It provides the trainees with ample time to train in various areas of psychiatry, such as psychotherapy.
During the almost ten years of its enactment, our Mental Health policy has contributed to the mainstreaming of mental health and wellbeing in all policies and services, promoted mental wellbeing across all age groups and life setting, helped actively in suicide prevention, and waged a relentless war against stigma and discrimination, moved the focus of care from institutions to the community, moved to acute psychiatric care to the acute general hospital setting, supported rehabilitation through specialised units, and provided long term care in dignified facilities.
I wish to conclude by quoting Dr John M. Cachia, past Commissioner for Mental Health, from his annual report 2020, where he says:
“Investing in the mental health and wellbeing of our younger and middle-aged generations is a policy priority which needs holistic action between health, education, employment, social welfare, workplaces and employers to address the core determinants of poor mental health and move to early intervention using available and targeted services in schools, in educational and training institutions, in all workplaces and in health and social care services.”
Unfortunately, in spite of so much progress in diagnoses and in the availability of drugs that are more specific to different psychiatric conditions, the general perception in discussions on mental health by the general public is usually negative.
The aim of Fora, such as this one, is to send out more positive messaging, especially for those who need treatment and their Carers.
Mental health needs a spotlight on the international level. This Forum will hopefully provide yet more space for discussions on the future of psychiatry to take place. I wish you fruitful discussions.