Depression, yoga, tsunamis and Asian Psychiatry

This week, Melbourne is hosting the 3rd World Congress of Asian Psychiatry, exploring the interaction of Western and Eastern traditions.

Asia has many mental health challenges. Some countries face rapid economic growth, westernisation and associated mental health issues.

Some have ageing populations and growing rates of dementia. Some are working to eliminate age-old stigmas.

Many have traditions such as meditation which contribute to good mental health. Our pick of stories reflects all these issues. The full program is also online at

Yoga affects gene expression, reduces stress, and perhaps even cardiovascular disease

Meditation, relaxation, calm breathing and similar programs are simple interventions to cope with the stress of modern living. In the past two decades an increasing number of research studies have been published that evaluate potential benefits of these and related practices for increasing wellness and promoting health, as well as their possible use as adjunct tools in therapy for a variety of conditions. A symposium explores the evidence base for the effectiveness of yoga including the discovery that it affects gene expression.

The Sendai tsunami disaster and the mental health aftermath – reports from Japan

Dr Yoshiharu Kim will offer a current perspective on post-disaster mental health care in Japan. Dr Tsuyoshi Akiyama will report on the sharing of essential information and the coordination of support efforts among major mental health organisations. The two will also discuss planning to help reconstruct the affected regions and the improvement of the disaster preparedness.

Female genital mutilation: Israeli Bedouin and Ethiopian Jews show the way to change

Prof Robert Belmaker from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheva, Israel will report on how this practice has practically ceased in two communities in Israel. These results suggest an optimistic approach toward cultural change involving unhealthy cultural practices, and emphasise the importance of cognitive approaches to cultural change. Full abstract at:

Could fish oil improve depression? Clinical trials say yes.

For years there has been anecdotal evidence that omega-3 oils are linked to depression. A symposium at the Congress will review the body of evidence that depression, including postnatal depression and juvenile bipolar disorder, is accompanied by decreased levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The panel will present research from clinical trials which indicates that omega-3 can decrease the symptoms of depression. And they’ll suggest how it works – via anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective mechanisms.

On Tuesday a symposium will take this theme further, arguing that major depression is an inflammatory disorder that can be treated with anti-inflammation drugs


  • Dealing with a 300% increase in dementia in Asia over the next 30 years:
  • Pregnancy loss and psychiatric disorders in young men and women:
  • Utilising mass media for mental health awareness and early  intervention in India:
  • Schizophrenia management in Egypt, India, Iran and Asian rural communities:
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: up-to-date findings – no abstract
  • Mental health and longevity: a 70 year study (discovery of the positive emotions) – no abstract
  • Mental health of refugees – no abstract

Coming up on Tuesday

  • Patrick McGory says identifying mental disorders early in young adults will improve lives and save billions of dollars.

For more information:  call Niall Byrne on 0417 131 977, or AJ Epstein on 0433 339 141 or email

Congress media pages: