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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Post-Congress update

Monday, 23 July

You may wonder why I’ve been so silent over the last week given that we had the International Congress. And that is indeed part of the reason in that I was extremely busy, but busy in the most happy and productive of ways. As some of you will have seen through Twitter, this was the most successful Congress I think that we have ever held, with 16% of delegates being psychiatrists from overseas. 

We had extremely positive comments about the form and content, the venue and the whole general spirit and morale of the meeting. I am therefore obviously going to give a great thanks to all those who contributed to organizing the conference: staff and psychiatrists led so ably by Dr Helen Miller, and Professor Nick Craddock coordinating the programme.We have already had a meeting about what the next conference will look like and there was an agreed title that it will be the Ascent of Psychiatry.

For me, it was absolutely wonderful to be able to present the President’s Medals and to give the Honorary Fellowships to such worthy friends of psychiatry who have made such a difference in the field of mental health.

I have to add that there were many fantastic talks and sessions across the conference - too many to mention individually but I particularly enjoyed the session on neuroscience. Colleagues told us how we don’t get our fair share in working with new physical treatment interventions with either repurposing of drugs or the role that immunology can play - this is having a massive impact across cancer and other branches of medicine. 

On the last day at Congress, I went to one of the final sessions chaired by our Honorary Archivist Dr Fiona Subotsky. The fascinating session showed how we can use the history of psychiatry in a really innovative way. We heard about neuroscience and psychiatry in Babylonian times, and the life and times of De Clérambault. The talks were given by amazing physicians and psychiatrists who spoke with such absolute erudition, and it was so good to see a complete mixture of people in the audience – both the more mature members of the College and young trainees!

Spending the week at Congress gave me time to reflect. I feel I’ve spent my first year in office trying to reach out to as many members as possible, and introducing the theme of Resilience and Recovery which we need not only for our users and carers in the new configurations of health services across the UK and internationally, but also for ourselves. We need resilience to cope with what will undoubtedly be a difficult forthcoming two years. In the second year of my Presidency, I want to move on to look at the place of psychiatrists and psychiatry across and in medicine and how we work across and into social care. This will be a theme I’ll be taking to Council to do some more defined work on, and it will be greatly assisted by the fact that we’ve been asked to lead on parity of esteem between physical and mental health. I’m very pleased to say that we’ve got John Bowis as our new champion around parity in Europe.

Last week – the week after Congress – was almost indescribably busy, including a very productive meeting with the GMC. On a personal front, I think my roof problem is now resolved. So now you’re going to hear about not only the life and times of us finding a new home for the College, but me finding a new home for myself back in Manchester.

Over the weekend, there was more travelling on behalf of the College – this time to Paris for an International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) meeting. I had the privilege of chairing a session delivered by past and present child and adolescent psychiatrist members of the European Federation of Psychiatric Trainees (EFPT), where we heard of the amazing work they are doing in understanding the training child psychiatrists receive across Europe, and how we can help drive up standards to improve quality of mental health care for children and families.

Becoming... exhibition

Excitingly, I managed to grab a few minutes to race (well, more of a speed walk!) out to the crowded streets of Paris to catch a fleeting glimpse of the Tour de France cyclists as they reached the end of their heroic journey. What a moment for one amazing man and for the UK. The streets were a mass of Union flags. After that, I returned to the meeting to take a look at a fantastic project that has been co-ordinated by Deeta Kimber, a psychiatrist, writer and textile artist from Australia. ‘Becoming...’ is a textile and sculpture exhibition where 10 children tell their stories and, as I hope you can see from the photographs, it shows yet again how visual images can tell us so much more than we can communicate in words.

I want to finish this blog entry by thanking each and every member of the College who has been so supportive to me over the last twelve months. It has been a privilege to be your President, and it will continue to be a privilege. I can honestly say that 99% of the time it’s a pleasure, and the remaining 1% of the time I know I just have to grit my teeth and deal with it! So thank you one and all.


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