Social development lecturer heads world body

24 March 2003
Keeping things healthy: Shona Sturgeon has been elected as President Elect of the World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH).

SHONA Sturgeon, a senior lecturer in the Department of Social Development, has been voted in as President Elect of the World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH) at the organisation's biennial conference in Melbourne in February.

Sturgeon will take office in 2005, and will serve as President Elect for the next two years. During this time, she will assist the WFMH President in running the body's many international obligations.

Sturgeon first joined the WFMH in 1997, when she was voted in as Regional Vice-President for Africa. Since then, she has served as a Board Member at Large and chairperson of the Federation's membership committee.

She is currently President of the South African Federation of Mental Health. Described by Sturgeon as an advocacy body, the WFMH, founded in 1948, seeks to promote the highest level of mental health — manages, among other things, the World Mental Health Day, co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

On this day, observed on October 10 each year, the WFMH provides educational and advocacy material to organisations worldwide, facilitating their task of bringing public and government attention to mental health issues.

According to Sturgeon, the Federation is different from many organisations in its multi-disciplinary membership, including academics, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, teachers, carers and consumers of mental health services. “We have a very holistic approach to mental health,” she notes.

One of the organisation's few presidents to come from a developing country, Sturgeon considers her election as a privilege that comes with huge responsibilities.

“I enjoy serving on the World Federation because of the kind of people involved with it – people who care, and give voluntarily of their knowledge and experience.”

As in her previous and ongoing positions with the Federation, Sturgeon aims to raise the profile of Africa and developing countries in the organisation.

“I think it is important for Africa and UCT to be seen to be playing a part on the world stage. We are important, and our issues are important.”

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