Psychiatrists gather in Hawaii's second-largest convention this year

Carol Bernstein
Carol Bernstein
Dr. Jeffrey Akaka
Dr. Jeffrey Akaka

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Psychiatric and other mental health professionals are in Hawaii this weekend for The American Psychiatric Association's 164th annual meeting.

The convention has drawn doctors, nurses and social workers to Hawaii from 76 countries.

"I think the only thing we would have wished is that we could have had some space shuttles coming over here from the East Coast because it's a bit of a long trek," said APA President Carol Bernstein, who came from New York.

Even if it is a long trip, the attendees are glad to be here.

Bringing the convention to Hawaii for the first time since 1973 was an effort that began 13 years ago, thanks in part to local psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Akaka.

"It took four more years of research, presenting data, showing that when people bring their meetings to Hawaii, numbers go up," Akaka said. "We did cost comparisons, hotel room costs here compared to some other states we meet in."

The meeting at the Hawaii Convention Center has drawn some 10,000 participants. Only the APEC leaders meeting in November will be bigger.

"That's worth $47 million in visitor spending," said Akaka, "and that's what we were trying to do back in 1998, and that's to bring visitors here and help our economy, because better economic health makes better mental health."

Those professionals will be learning about some serious mental health issues, including the treatment of America's military personnel.

"I think there is clear evidence that our service men and women really need to benefit more from the services that our field as to offer," Bernstein said, "and there are many wonderful sessions on post-traumatic stress disorder, on depression, on anxiety, and on ways that we can help."

The gathering hasn't been without controversy. A small group of psychiatrists plan to boycott Monday's appearance by the convention's convocation speaker, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, because of what they see as his stance against the state of Israel.

Attendees will be visible around the convention center, thanks to the blue bags they're carrying. The convention will run through Wednesday.

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