It was not an easy beginning for the MPA. It was not that the first meeting called by Dr. M P Deva of the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Malaya to discuss the formation of the Malaysian Psychiatric Association in November 1976 was not well attended at the Hospital Kuala Lumpur. In fact it was just the opposite, it attracted 17 psychiatrists out of the approximately 25 in the country, and other staff. It was a trying time for psychiatry in Malaysia with about a dozen psychiatrists out of perhaps 25 leaving or planning to leave for greener pastures down under. The mental hospitals were overflowing with well over 8000 patients in conditions that would have been unthinkable today. The Hospital Bahagia had pioneered in 1970s a Day Care in Ipoh where the institutionalised mentally ill were ferried several times a week to an empty private home for and outing, games a sample of life outside the mental hospital. The 2 year Masters in Psychological Medicine programme of University of Malaya which started in 1973, graduated its second batch of one psychiatrist, and was facing a bleak drought of new trainees. But perhaps the bigger immediate threat was from among a few of the profession and many in one other specialities who felt that the MPA as a concept was not a wise one, as there was already a Neuro-psychiatric society of the Malaysian Medical Association. Luckily the majority of the psychiatrists prevailed and the MPA was formally inaugurated by the Honourable Minister of Health Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew on 19th March 1977 at Hospital Bahagia, Ulu Kinta. Dato Seri M. Mahadevan was elected as the MPA’s First protem President with Dr. M P Deva as pro tem Hon Gen Secretary. The election was followed by a scientific session on The Move to Community Psychiatry in Malaysia.

Activities of the MPA

Scientific Meetings

The initial years saw the first monthly Scientific/Clinical meetings first held at the Nurses Lecture theatre of, GHKL and later held in UHKL, UKM and GHKL on rotation. It became more regular after 1981 until the introduction of the Quarterly Scientific meetings. This was initiated by Prof Ramli Hassan in 1993 and the 1st QSM was on Child Psychiatry held on 20/2/93 at the Institute of Paediatrics KL attended by 48 participants. This became a regular meeting discussing various topics of interest in psychiatry and Mental Health and held mainly in KL. On the 23rd Nov. 1996 the first QSM was held outside KL in Johor Bahru on care of the Elderly and the next one in February 1997 at GH Kota Bharu on Community Mental Health.


The MPA under the Chairmanship of Dato Seri Dr M. Mahadevan organised its first major conference in 1983 – the 4th ASEAN Forum on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Neurological Sciences Kuala Lumpur.

The First Malaysian Conference on Psychological Medicine (MCPM) was initiated and organized by A. Prof Dr M. P. Deva at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya in 1988. The MPA under his leadership also organised the 2nd MCPM at the Ming Court Hotel Kuala Lumpur from 23rd to 25th February 1990. Since then the MCPM has become the premier biannual Scientific Meeting for Psychiatrist and Mental Health Workers in Malaysia.

The MPA organized the 3rd Malaysian Conference on Psychological Medicine from the 17th – 19th January 1992 at Sri Bayu Beach Resort attended by 280 delegates with Dr Mohd Fadzil Man as organising chairman. The 4th MCPM organised by Prof Ramli Hassan as chairman on 14th – 16th January 1994 attended by 188 delegates. The 5th MCPM was held in Hotel Sofitel Johor Bahru from 8th – 10th March 1996 under the chairmanship of Dr S. Jeyarajah and attended by more than 200 delegates. The MCPM is now an annual conference, currently in its 12th Session in 2006.


In conjunction with the MCPM the MPA also introduced two awards since 1994. The Best Psychiatric Research Award for the 3 best papers presented at the MCPM. These awards are sponsored by Novartis and Pfizer.

The MPA Book Prize of RM 500.00 for the Best Psychiatric Trainee for the Masters Program at University Malaya & UKM.

Joining ASEAN Federation for Psychiatry and Mental Health

In 1981, the 3rd ASEAN Forum on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was held in Bangkok, Thailand. At a special session in February 11, 1981, the AFPMH was established and the MPA joined the AFPMH as a founder member with Dato Seri Dr. M Mahadevan representing the MPA and signing the Constitution on behalf of the MPA. The Founding of the AFPMH was attended by all the Presidents of the ASEAN National Psychiatric Associations. Prof Kusumanto Setyonogoro of Indonesia was elected Founder President for a 4 year term. In 1985 the Secretariat was transferred to Thailand with General Aroon Showanasai as the 2nd president of the AFPMH. The 3rd president of AFPMH was Prof Tsoi Wing Foo of Singapore from 1987 to 1989.

The Malaysian Psychiatric Association took over the Secretariat in 1990 when A. Prof Dr M. P. Deva was the 4th President and Dr S. Jeyarajah was Secretary General. The MPA successfully organised the 3rd ASEAN Congress on Psychiatry and Mental Health (since called the AFPMH Congress) and the 7th Forum on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AFCAP) from 24th – 27th January, 1991 at the KL Hilton Hotel attended by 275 foreign, ASEAN and local delegates.

At the 6th AFPMH Congress held in Bangkok in November, 1996, Dr S. Jeyarajah was elected to next President of the AFPMH and the Secretariat passed over to the MPA. The MPA organised the 7th AFPMH Congress and 11th AFCAP in December 1998. The 12th AFPM Congress celebrating the 25th Anniversary of AFPMH was held in Jakarta in July 2006 where Prof R Kusumanto Setyenegoro the Founder President was honoured with a special plaque and Prof. M P Deva gave the address honouring Prof Kusumanto’s pioneering work in forming Asia’s first Regional Psychiatric Association.

The Asean Journal of Psychiatry was first published by the Singapore Psychiatric Association and in 1996-1997 by MPA under the editorship of Prof Dr M. P. Deva.

Joining The World Psychiatric Association (WPA)

The MPA was from 1977 till 1981 a National Psychiatric Association and in 1981 when it joined the AFPMH, it had started to have international links and these have opened the doors to the wider world. In 1988 the MPA joined the WPA as a member This has led to wider links not only at WPA sponsored meetings but also at the General Assemblies of the WPA where the MPA has voting rights. The last General Assembly attracted over 100 country- delegates from all 6 continents MPA is in Zone XVI of the WPA in Region 4 that covers South Asia. MPA’s former president Prof M P Deva was the Zone XVI representative of WPA for 16 years from 1989 to 2005.


The MPA soon after its formation started to keep tabs with its far flung members in Sabah, Sarawak, and different parts of peninsular Malaysia through mimeographed copies of an MPA Newsletter printed and posted by the first Secretary with no funding – as there was no bank account or bank balance to support a newsletter. This went on for many years until with the growing availability of funds and support in 1992, a ‘Berita MPA’ was finally printed by Prof Maniam and colleagues in UKM. The Malaysian Psychiatry is now a Quarterly Newsletter of the MPA, which has undergone changes from the early MPA Newsletter in 1978 to ‘Berita MPA’ in 1992 and since 1995 as ‘Malaysian Psychiatry’.

The Malaysian Journal of Psychiatry was first published in October 1993 under the editorship of A. Prof Dr K Saroja. It is a 6 monthly journal and although belated at times has been successfully continued as the ‘Orange Journal of Malaysian Psychiatry’. Assoc. Prof Dr Hatta Shaharom was appointed Editor in September 1996 followed by Prof Azhar Md. Zain. The current Editor-in-Chief is Prof Dr Nor Zuraida Zainal, who has managed the Journal since 2008.

The Malaysian Journal of Psychiatry went online in June 2006 and has since been upgraded to include an online author submission and reviewer management system. MJP is available online at


The strength of an association lies in its membership. From its initial membership of around 50 members (36 ordinary and 24 associate members) the membership on January 1997stands at over 200 with:

Life members
Ordinary members
Life Associate members
Associate members

Patron of the MPA

YAM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj the nations Founding Father was our 1st Patron and since his sad demise this position has not been filled. The MPA is still seeking a suitable eminent person.

Presidents of the MPA 1977 – 2012

Tan Sri, Dato Seri, Dato, Dr. M Mahadevan
Prof Syed M Haq
Prof . M Parameshvara Deva
Prof Ramli Hassan
Dr. S Jeyarajah
Dr. Chin Cheuk Ngen
Prof Hussain Habil
Prof T. Maniam
Dr. Abdul Kadir Abu Bakar

Policy making and healthcare training

The MPA is concerned with several issues among which are:

1. The National Mental Health Policy
2. The New Mental Health Act
3. Ethical Code of members
4. Public Health Education
5. Mental Health Insurance

Training of doctors and GP in psychiatry will take a prominent role for future activities apartfrom continuing our present CME programme.

International Assistance in Disasters

The MPA was one of the first to respond to the psychosocial needs of survivors of the cataclysm of the South Asian Tsunami in December 2004. The MPA cooperating with the International disaster Relief Organisation Mercy Malaysia sent out teams of psychiatrists in relays to the worst hit areas of Acheh in Indonesia and Kalmunai in eastern Sri Lanka to provide, relief and training This went on for over 5 months in 2005.

Future Directions

The role of the psychiatric profession in Malaysia is far from over. The country has not by a long shot achieved mental health for all in this country, not withstanding the Almaty declaration. The mental hospitals are not ideal places in which to routinely treat the mentally ill. Their custodial image and their place in negating and stigmatising both the profession and the mentally ill is something that despite the proliferation of psychiatrists we in MPA have not come to grips with. There does not seem to be any movement forward in de-stigmatisation. At the same time there is talk about building large and new mental hospitals rather than move concertedly into the community. The MPA can play an important role in making the facts about ill effects of institutional care half a century after the discovery of chlorpromazine and well into the area of Clozapine, Risperidone, CBT and PSR, known to decision makers who are, sadly, going the wrong way.

Malaysia may not have fully solved all our problems in mental health and care of the mentally ill, but it may surprise many in the profession that there are dozens of countries whose mental health staff have even less expertise than us. In the past several years, doctors, psychiatrists and nurses from several neighbouring and distant countries, like Pakistan, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, PNG and Mongolia have spent days, weeks and months or even years learning from our experience in mental health. Yet others have been impressed by our progress through our training them in their own countries. What can the MPA do in this growing field of international exchange and cooperation?

The MPA can actually do a lot. Many years ago it was Dr. M P Deva of the MPA, who proposed the ASEAN Traveling Fellowship, through the AFPMH. It can extend further beyond these countries by both inviting psychiatrists from needy countries to see our progress in mental health and perhaps sponsoring our own MPA psychiatrists to teach overseas in short courses for nurses, GPs and even postgraduate trainees. Malaysia is a country well known for its warm spirit of giving and sharing our knowledge and expertise in caring for the neglected area of mental health is surely likely to take the MPA to new heights. Another even less expensive way to help the needy is to regularly send our journals to countries in the region who sometimes have not received any journal on psychiatry for decades and live off the 1970s textbooks.

The MPA has come a long way in the 30 years since it was started in HBHK one hot and sweltering afternoon in the non-air conditioned hall of the school of nursing. It meets in 5 star hotels now and instead of 20 or so, we have about 200 of us. But simply numbers alone and passive observers are not enough for the future of MPA. We have to have new pioneers to take over from those who laid the foundations of what the MPA is today. They however must be tempered with that indomitable spirit and willingness, as Ulysses said, to seek, to find and not to yield!

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Malaysian Psychiatric Association

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