The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) representing medical students worldwide. The IFMSA was founded in 1951 and currently maintains 125 National Member Organisations (NMOs) from 118 countries, representing 1.3 million medical students across six continents. It is recognised as an NGO within the United Nations’ system and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and also works in collaboration with the World Medical Association (WMA).
The IFMSA envisions a world in which medical students are united and equipped with knowledge, skills and values, to shape a sustainable and healthy future. The IFMSA consist of six Standing Committees, with different focus areas:
- SCOPH : Standing Committee on Public Health.
- SCORP : Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace.
- SCORA : Standing Committee on Reproductive Health including AIDS.
- SCOME : Standing Committee on Medical Education.
- SCOPE : Standing Committee on Professional Exchange.
- SCORE : Standing Committee on Research Exchange.
The Standing Committees work independently on their focus areas, however, through different actions there are many inter-committee collaborations. Each Standing Committees is supervised by a Director and a Liaison Officer. In addition, there are Regional Assistants in each of the Standing Committees and in the five regions (Africa, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, Asia-Pacific and Americas).
The IFMSA recognizes the issue of Mental Health as an emerging and many times neglected health problem worldwide. Mental Health issues are addressed within two of IFMSAs Standing Committees, SCOPH and SCORP. Recently, during IFMSAs General Assembly (in March 2015) in Antalya, Turkey, the NMOs of IFMSAs European Region recognised three main external representation priorities, one of which being Mental Health. The other two focus areas are Trade and Health and Human Resources for Health. In the actual medical context of the European Region, these three priorities were selected because of the need for an efficient advocacy and the lack of awareness from the European institutions, NGOs and population.
Since November, the IFMSA has discussed with EFPT different areas for collaboration between the two organisations, through discussions with their president, Mariana Pinto Da Costa. Two examples of the upcoming collaborations between IFMSA and EFPT are the participation of an IFMSA official at the EFPT Porto Forum in 2015 and the participation of IFMSA at the Symposium of the European Social Psychiatry in Geneva in July.
Currently the main point of this collaboration is the EFPT participation at the IFMSAs European Regional Meeting (EuRegMe), held in Aalborg, Denmark (April 24th – 28th). During this event, IFMSA worked on the external representation priorities, including Mental Health, involving all of the NMOs in discussions and debates.
In addition, IFMSA conducted a two hour Mental Health Joint Session, coordinated by EFPT, the SCOPH Regional Assistants for Europe and the SCORP Regional Assistant for Europe. More than 30 medical students attended this joint session, which tackled Mental Health issues and issues regarding substance abuse. In order to provide participants with the necessary knowledge and skills, to create and enhance mental health projects within their respective NMOs, different interactive presentations where used.
Picture showing Duccio Papanti, Chair from the EFPT Psychoactive Substance Use Disorders Working Group, speaking on this topic over Skype to medical students
Considering both the strong positive feedback from medical students participating in this joint session and the important work left to do on Mental Health Issues within IFMSA, we truly hope that there are many possibilities of collaboration in the near future between EFPT and IFMSA.
Elias Karam (SCOPH Regional Assistant for Europe) and Hana Awil (SCORP Regional Assistant for Europe)
On behalf of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations
Picture showing IFMSA members (left to right): Alberto Silva, Elias Karam, Mariana Pinto da Costa (EFPT), Skander Essafi, Hana Awil