Derry conference to discuss mental health and culture

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Does culture have a role to play in recovery in mental health? Should culture be integrated into future mental health policy and how can enabling recovery in mental health leave a lasting legacy for the City of Culture 2013?

These are just some of the questions down for discussion at this week’s 10th annual mental health conference which takes place today and tomorrow at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus.

The theme for the two day event, which is hosted by the UU School of Nursing, is ‘Delivering Excellence and Supporting Recovery’.

Conference organiser and mental health nursing lecturer, Marie O’Neill, explained the thinking behind the theme: “UK City of Culture is a very significant milestone for the city so we thought it would be appropriate to consider how different aspects of culture can facilitate and aid recovery from mental illness.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has indicated that culture plays a significant role in the manifestation, treatment, and course of psychiatric disorders. It is this complex interaction of biological, personal and social factors within our cultural context that presents a challenge for individuals and communities exploring recovery in mental health.”

One of the highlights of the conference programme will be an open forum on ‘Are We a Culture of Recovery?’ which takes place in the Guildhall this evening at 7 pm. Panellists will include Denis Bradley, Kitty O’Kane, Ollie Green, Tony Doherty, Ruairi Doherty and Oonagh McGillion.

Marie O’Neill added: “The panel will look at different aspects of culture such as art, music, visuals, community projects and cultural heritage and consider how to harness this creative energy to challenge social and cultural stigma around mental health.

“This will be an ideal public platform to discuss the role of culture in supporting and enabling recovery in mental health and how culture could contribute to achieving a sustainable and vital legacy for the Derry~Londonderry City of Culture year.”

The conference programme also includes a series of keynote presentations and plenary sessions and workshops with contributions from academics, frontline NHS staff and service users from across Britain and Ireland. Keynote addresses will be given by Dr Mary Chambers, Professor of Mental Health Nursing, Kingston University and St George’s University of London; Dan Neville TD, President of the Irish Association of Suicidology; John Crowe, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Nottingham, and Rory O’Connor, Professor of Health Psychology, University of Glasgow.