SRN blog: A conference that treats us all as part of one community with equal value

23rd October 2017

The European Conference on Mental Health (ECMH) is relatively unique. It is one of very few events where lived experience, social care experience and health care experience are given equal prominence.

For that reason, among others, SRN were proud partners in this year’s event in Berlin. Our great friend and supporter Nigel Henderson of Penumbra also represented Mental Health Europe and delivered a keynote speech about the importance of compassion and love and their central importance for recovery.

Events such as these are great opportunities to explore new ways of working or new ideas. I was particularly struck by a four country project (Iceland, Finland, Ireland and Australia) presented by Liam McGabbhan and others, which is designing mental health nurse training from a lived experience perspective, engaging people with lived experience as paid consultants and full members of the research group. Also of note was an innovative paper by Karen Wright of UCLan which explored the challenge caring for women living with anorexia when the acts of caring – increasing calories for example – can feel cruel and uncaring.

I, of course, had a session to chair and a paper to present and was pleased to find that my fellow presenters were exploring innovations in coproduction and recovery: the impact of creating music on the rate of mental health recovery for people who have experienced stroke and the contribution that playing football makes to Connection, Hope, Identity, Meaning and Empowerment (CHIME) in groups of men in medium and low secure forensic facilities. In the former people were empowered through their creativity. In the latter it appears that simply being active is not enough: the crucial element being part of a community- being connected.

I was struck by the range of ideas across systems that do not normally talk to one another – as opposed to talking at one another. This is also unique: a conference that treats us all as part of one community with equal value. There is much we can learn from this approach.

Visit the ECMH website