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(1949). Psychiatry. XI, 1948: Statement by International Preparatory Commission, International Congress on Mental Health, London, August, 1948. Pp. 235–261.. Psychoanal Q., 18:403-405.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psychiatry. XI, 1948: Statement by International Preparatory Commission, International Congress on Mental Health, London, August, 1948. Pp. 235–261.
This statement was drawn up by a Preparatory Commission in preparation for the Third International Congress on Mental Health which met in London from August 11th through August 21st, 1948. It is a broadly-visioned document, addressed 'to administrators, workers in the social sciences, in psychiatry, medical and allied professions, and to thinking people everywhere'. Its purpose is to stimulate and promulgate the universal application of the principles and practice of mental health with the very broadest social aims. It speaks of the vast promise which the social sciences and psychiatry hold out of reducing the toll of human waste and suffering so that we now 'stand on the threshold of a new epoch of the science of man' with immense possibilities for constructive effort. Yet we also have come to understand 'how vast destructive forces may be let loose upon the world' from distortion of human impulse on a large scale and this compels us to face the problems of better education for life with one another. Peace requires a world-wide
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foundation, and practical ways must be found of improving the relations between the peoples of the world, individually and collectively. This calls for sustained teamwork by those who devote themselves to the study of man and society.
Men have long accepted the inevitability of recurring misfortunes in the shape of group conflict and war on the grounds that 'that is human nature'. A rigorous investigation of 'human nature', however, has clearly revealed that these discouraging traditional views have no valid foundation. Man and his society are modifiable, despite powerful obstacles to reform which must be recognized and dealt with, both within the mental processes of the individual and within the framework of social institutions.
Problems of mental health in relation to human development and to the rôle of society are then discussed. The basic process of human development is briefly outlined from birth, through infancy, childhood, adolescence, maturity and senescence. Social patterns and institutions are not permanent and static, but can and should be modified when they outgrow the particular human needs which set them up. Failure or delays in modification become 'a possible danger to mankind. Survivals of this kind can only be regarded as breeding grounds of social disorder when they frustrate the human purposes they originally served.' Through the introduction of a dynamic theory of personality and its expression in social, political, and economic life, it is beginning to be understood that specific changes can be promoted successfully only when they are brought into relation with the resistances and facilitations which are derived from the particular life history of the people concerned. Special importance must be attached to research conducted in such a way that the psychiatrist and social scientist are brought into the closest possible contact with the administrator and the political leader.
The Statement develops the idea of 'world citizenship', not in a political sense, but to convey the idea of a 'common humanity'. The question is asked whether indeed survival is possible without it. The phenomenon of group exclusiveness in our era is fraught with grave danger, impedes social growth and change, and reaches its peak in an exaggerated nationalism which separates groups of men the world over, tending even towards the monopolistic control of scientific research. The sciences of man offer the hope of a new approach to the problems of war and a world community. Since the issues of peace and war are of immediate concern, methods must be chosen and applied with the time factor in the forefront of our attention. The movement toward a world community already has taken its first embryonic steps in many aspects of human life and actually fulfils, rather than goes counter to the trend of history. Obstacles and resistances are fully recognized. There is no room here for an easy optimism. Just as the discoveries of the physicist can be used to construct or destroy, so too the psychological sciences can either contribute to mental health or they can be exploited to divide and confuse mankind. There is all the difference between recognizing that a task has immense difficulties and insisting that it is impossible.
While the mental health services of each country should be developed according to its particular needs and must take into account specific local conditions, certain general principles can be laid down as useful guides to
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all countries in their efforts toward improving mental health. Such principles for the planning and organization of mental health services, the education of the general public, the training of specialists, and research activities are enumerated and amplified under 'Recommendations'. Finally, the Statement concludes with a series of international recommendations addressed to the various appropriate agencies of the United Nations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the newly formed World Federation for Mental Health, and to other nongovernmental international organizations concerned with the betterment of mental health and human relations.