Situated in the Langham Hotel in Auckland the 2013 IIMHL & IDL conference brought together delegates from eight countries to share new developments in the sector and to explore ways of working together to improve outcomes for tangata whaiora.
The opening ceremony set the tone for the event with its integration of traditional Maori protocols into proceedings. The notions of person centred care and self-determination in recovery and wellbeing depend on recognising every individual’s cultural perspective. Many inequities are rooted in the disenfranchisement of groups within societies, particularly indigenous groups. The organisers of the IIMHL & IDL had taken care to adopt more than just a token approach and the results were felt and appreciated by all attendees, both foreign and local.
A variety of speakers took to the stage over the ensuing two days, from representatives from the political sphere, Ministers Tariana Turia and Peter Dunne to others working within the sector including researchers, reformed psychiatrists, service user leaders, clinicians and managerial staff.
The usual ambiguous rhetoric from the politicians took on tones of sincerity and genuine passion which was both surprising and refreshing. It was still not exactly clear what they were committing to but it was clear that both these Ministers at least believed in what they were saying. The fact that they were here supporting the IIMHL and IDL movements which are characterised by service user input was also encouraging. You can read Peter Dunnes speech here (however you will not find in the transcript the promising moment of strength when he verged on criticising the Government’s broader policy settings).
A review can never properly convey all of the content of any event with so many speakers and so much expertise. Some highlights for me were the inspirational talk by Shelley Campbell the CEO of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, the workshop and talk by Shaun McNeil and Dr Dan Fisher (the self-described reformed psychiatrist)and also the update entitled ‘What would I Want if it Was my Mum?’ from Dr Rees Tapsell & Jeff Bennett, Waikato DHB.
Also striking, particularly in light of the Prime Ministers new and recently launched 62 million dollar e-initiative for mental health was the briefing from Dr Sally Merry on SPARKS – a highly successful e-therapy for depressed adolescents backed by research which is still going begging for the funds to fine tune and expand.
The link to the full programme is here and a link to IIMHL is here should you wish to get in touch for further information on any particular aspect of the conference.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the experience was making connections with the visitors from around the world and indeed from within New Zealand. It was particularly good to connect with VOX sponsored Penny Stenhouse (Voices of Experience – a service user group from Scotland) and Kelly Pope from the Christchurch service user network. We tangata whaiora seem to naturally gravitate together!
In a more general sense it is a tribute to those working in the sector that attendees were accessible and enthusiastic, realistic about the challenges that we face but undaunted. The shared intent and goodwill to be found in IMHL and IDL brings me confidence that we will be able to reform archaic practices and institutions. Self-determination and the service user movement are not a radical revolution or just an optional evolution; they are quite simply, our reality and our future.