Joseba Achotegui Loizate

Joseba Achotegui Loizate, MD, PhD
Secretary WPA-TPS 2015-2017

I was born in Bilbao in 1952, in the Basque country of Spain. I was educated at Jesuit primary and secondary schools. I studied medicine at the University of Barcelona, where I obtained the title of specialist in psychiatry, with top honours. In 1990, I obtained my doctorate, cum laude, in Medicine at the University of the Basque Region. My thesis was titled “Comparative analysis of the ego concept in the works of Melanie Klein and Heinz Hartmann”.

During my training in transcultural psychiatry I have been influenced by Dr. Jordi Font and Dr. Jorge Tizón, two psychiatrists who, in the1980s, showed great sensitivity to this subject, that was extremely undervalued in Spain at that time. Dr Font’s work on the mental health of Spaniards emigrating to Germany was particularly notable. Dr. Tizón, carried out important research on immigrants moving from the south of Spain to Catalonia. Drs Tizon and Font founded the CIPP ( Pyschopathological and Psychosocial Research Group), in which I received training and worked. CIPP was the predecessor of SAPPIR, where I am currently working.

I would also highlight the training I received from Doctors León and Rebeca Grinberg, who immigrated to Spain from Argentina at the end of the 1970s; particularly for their contributions to grief related to migration. I also have been strongly influenced by the training experiences I had at the Minkowska Centre in Paris, during the late 1980s, and with which I have maintained close contact ever since.

In 1991, I was appointed Professor of Psychotherapy at the University of Barcelona. I have continued in this position ever since.

I have basically done clinical work and conducted research in the area of migration and mental health.

During my career as a cultural psychiatrist, I have been fortunate to work in collaboration with the psychiatrist Dr. Dori Espeso, whose expertise is with immigrant minors, and with the social worker Nuria Pellejero, who has in-depth knowledge of the social problems related to migration, and Dr. Anna Tuset, a psychologist expert in transcultural assessment.

– since 1982, I have been a member of the CIPP (Psychopathological and Psychosociological Research Group) of the Vidal and Barraquer Foundation in Barcelona, specialising in migration and mental health. In 1987, this group obtained a research award from the Spanish Neuropsychiatry Society for the project; “Migration and Mental Health”. The study was subsequently published in 1993, by the University of Barcelona Press, under this same title. – in 1994 I founded and, since then, have been the director, of SAPPIR (Psychopathological and Psychosocial Assistance Service for Immigrants and Refugees) at the Hospital Sant Pere Claver, in Barcelona. – in 1997 I was given the Solidarity Award by the Catalan Regional Parliament, for my work with immigrants. – since 197I have been the director of the post-graduate course “Mental health and psychological interventions with immigrants, refugees and minority groups” at the University of Barcelona. – from 1998 through 2004 I have been advisor on issues regarding migration and family regrouping for the European Parliamentary Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights – I am the coordinator of the international task force on “The Ulysses Syndrome”, sponsored by the European Parliamentary Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights

I am grateful to the administration of the Sant Pere Claver Hospital, in which SAPPIR is located, in the port area of Barcelona. SAPPIR was created specifically to deal with the mental health problems of the immigrant population and with those who are socially excluded, and has always supported our work with these populations.

My work in the area of migration and mental health has led to my publishing a book titled, Depression in Immigrants: a trans-cultural viewpoint . Ediciones Mayo, Barcelona. 2002. This book describes “the Ulysses Syndrome” for the first time. I have also been editor of Anxiety and Depression in Immigrants, published in 2003 by Ediciones Mayo, Barcelona, and, Chronic Stress: clinical and therapeutic aspects; Ediciones Mayo (in press).

The Ulysses Syndrome

The concept of the Ulysses Syndrome, that I first described in 2002, has led to the following works since its publication in the book Depression in Immigrants:

– the novel “the Ulysses Syndrome” by Santiago Gamboa, regarding the suffering of South American immigrants in Paris. Publisher: Seix Barral, 2005. – a book of poetry “Ulysses Syndrome” by Arsenio Rodríguez Quintana, a Cuban poet, published in 2004. – two plays titled “Ulysses Syndrome” – one in Spain and the other in Mexico, in 2005 – an art exhibition in Barcelona in May 2006

I have been a member and an active participant in the conferences of both WPA-TPS and WACP; including presentations at the conferences in Vienna in Apr 2006, the first World congress of Psychiatry, in Beijing, in Sep 2006, and the jointly-sponsored conference in Kamakura in Apr 2007.

July 5, 2007