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IASP Newsletters - March 2000

From the President
Professor Diego De Leo MD

In moments when I am troubled or down for work reasons or when the level of worries seriously challenges my self-confidence, I have a couple of thougths that help me overcome these bad feelings.

Those thougths correspond to some very happy memories related to my professional career. One of those goes back to my last lecture at the Faculty of Medicine in Padua, which at that time represented the lesson of the course of psychiatry. There were nearly 200 students in the amphitheatre and at the end of my speech they stood up and gave me a very long applause. It was a big emotion that never happened to me before, and at that moment it was in my mind that this probably could have been my very last lecture in Padua, as my departure to Australia was not far away. A similar feeling, accompanied be a very intense sense of gratification happened at the closing ceremony of the Venice IASP conferene which ended with a very warm standing ovation. I am taken to consider these moments as the most rewarding for me and as I wrote before they ususally help me to counteract difficult moments.

I have a great passion for my work and I have a strong sense of responsibility for what being the President of our association may imply. I really want to do something good for the IASP because rendering people satisfied of the work done still represents for me the most important experience and the only one that renders my commitment meaningful and valuable.

In my inaugural speech, in Athens, I presented the platform of my intentions, to share with the new board:

1) The creation of a Round Table of the main organisations operating in the area of suicide. These may be most relevant national associations (AAS, CASP, GEPS, etc) but also supernational, such as World Psychiatric Association (with its branch dedicated to suicide), World Federation for Mental Health, International Psychogeriatric Association, etc. There is a lot of scope for this: we have to try to harmonise our efforts in order to save energy and money from undue replication of ongoing, unknown projects and initiatives. A large coordination, based on better information, may also permit the realisation of bigger, more important projects.

2) The institution of a College of Presidents of IASP. This may prove to be a relevant asset for any new Executive Board. Profiting from wisdom and experience of previous IASP Presidents, and keeping them actively involved in the associative life, may guarantee continuity and consistency throughout any new mandate.

3) A deeper scientific involvement of IASP should be encouraged. The scientific content and value of the recent Athens conference was warmly approved by many, many members and I intend to continue in this direction. The endorsement from IASP of the new WHO project called SUPRE-MISS (Suicide Prevention-Multisite Intervention Study on Suicide) may represent a wonderful occasion to promote young researchers' involvement in a cooperative, transnational venture, promoting both personal growth and international exchange.

4) Task Forces should constitute the hub of our association. We have to revitalise them and possibly create other new themes (survivors will be one of those) to aggregate people. The role of national delegates could be crucial in this regard. They may also directly assist in the assignment of scholarship programs.

5) We have to increase our membership body. Apart from the necessary work of "consolidating" the old membership, we have to become much more aggressive in recruiting new people by ameliorating our internal rganisation and by adopting marketing-oriented strategies for increasing our numbers. We may aspire to ambitious targets only once achieved a robust dimension. Thus, this is an absolute priority for the new board.

6) It would be of great importance to succeed in creating a "World Day for Suicide Prevention". The procedure to achieve this result is very complex and difficult and certainly my mandate is not long enough to overcome all the problems involved in this issue. But I really hope that someone else, in my position, may one day finalise all the necessary bureaucratic steps to conclude this ambitious enterprise.

So, these are the good intentions. As usual, "facts speak louder than words" and we will see in a two-year term how many of these proposals remain still at the level of "intentions". For now I am sure that I am grateful to the previous board for all the good work done. But I am also sure that "my" board will be a very strong one and in fact it already started to work hard from the very beginning. In Italy (I am still more Latin than Anglo) we have a colourful expression to say that: Il buon giorno si vede al mattino [if the day starts off well, then it will end well]. And the signs are very good!

Diego