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

Psychiatry without borders but with at least one wall: our International Congress will be the biggest ever. Fact.

2017 for me began, as I suspect it did for many of you, with being asked to offer diagnosis on the U.S president. I declined, not least because many of the things that people find unpleasant or scary about him - misogyny, aggression, rudeness and so on - are not evidence for mental disorders.

But if not as a psychiatrist, just as a member of the public, it is hard to avoid a certain morbid interest in the man - one can't get him out of one's mind, no matter how hard one tries, and believe me, I do try.

As I start to make notes for my final speech as president at Congress 2017 I can't help but think how would Donald do it. I did ask him over for the event, promising we would all be off-duty, but he declined. So what follows is the product of a fertile imagination, access to a twitter account and switching "Verb Block' on spellcheck.

Loyal congress attenders (you are very good people) will know that the Royal College of Psychiatrist’s International Congress is always great.

Birmingham 2015 and London 2016 saw the Congress’s biggest gatherings ever. That's a fact. 3000 delegates from about 50 countries. The experts, the top ones, said the academic programme was the best ever. It was. Anything else is lies. From extremely dishonest media.

But it can and will be greater in 2017. LET'S MAKE PSYCHIATRY GREAT AGAIN.

A great city

We’re off to Edinburgh this June. It's a great, great city folks, seriously, I go through it regularly on my way to play golf. It looks lovely. And Congress 2017 is going to be huge.

They tell me it always rains in Edinburgh. Nonsense. I have talked to the right people. There will be no raining falling upon Scotland during the congress. Guaranteed.

Walls? Yes, we can do walls. They tell me there is a good wall up there to keep the English out. We will get it working again. And the Romans will pay. They shouldn't never have let it get into that state.

You’ll get the best

And we get you Congress goers the best.

Professor Karl Deisseroth, who is more hotly tipped to win the next Nobel than Chelsea is to win the Premiership, joins our campaign from Stanford University. Professor Deisseroth is a practising psychiatrist and pioneer of optogenetics (in Trump-speak this translates to lighting up brains in a very clever way). Very high tech, great, great stuff.

OK, enough already. I can't write this stuff anymore. Verbs and references to the Premier League keep slipping in. So let's return to something more like English and which hopefully won’t trigger panic attacks in the reader.

The biggest brain

We will also have last year's winner of the world’s biggest brain prize, the Brain Prize, Professor Richard Morris, known for ground breaking work on tackling Alzheimer’s through understanding memory. He will be exploring novelty and familiarity in consolidating memory. And conveniently for us, he just needs a bus fare across Edinburgh.

Those of you who joined us in London for Congress 2016 might have enjoyed seeing me royally outwitted by Jo Brand. Or not. Jo is known for many things but not for fancy footwork. Unlike Deborah Bull, the prima ballerina turned cultural tsarina, who will be keeping me on my toes in interview this year.

Thought for the day

We will also welcome Professor Mona Siddiqui, the doyenne of Thought for the Day and much more, who will talk on passion, piety and psychosis in medieval Islam. Or do I mean with passion on piety and psychosis?

I can personally recommend Professor Ian Deary's session on cognitive ageing. I have known Ian since we were trainees together back before the First World War. Which means on the topic of cognitive aging he knows his stuff.

A strong pitch for the least Trump-friendly session is made by Professor Michael King, talking of the impact of stigma in psychiatry through the lens of sexuality and gender. Although I doubt Donald would be first in line to attend our debates on climate change and mental health or the advocacy role of psychiatrists working with LGBT people either.

He may still put in an appearance at our guaranteed sell out show (and that is a real fact) "Neurology for Dummies" by Carson and Stone, Edinburgh's answer to Laurel and Hardy. And then you get me, giving my last speech as President. Turn up just to make sure it is my last. Turn up to make sure my last audience is the biggest.

Register to attend here - it's cheaper if you do it before 31 March 2017. We don't have any numbers but I guarantee that International Congress Edinburgh 2017 will be the largest ever. It's a fact. Look at the photos. They never lie. Unlike the media.

Oh no, it's happening again. I have to stop. Need to tweet. Now. Fact.

Crowded Street in Edinburgh Deserted Street in Edinburgh
Copyright William Starkey and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence Copyright Adam Ward and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

Professor Sir Simon Wessely

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Professor Sir Simon Wessely


Professor Sir Simon Wessely


Sir Simon Wessely is Regius Professor of Psychiatry and Co-Director King’s Centre for Military Health Research and Academic Department of Military Mental Health, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London.  He is a clinical liaison psychiatrist, with a particular interest in unexplained symptoms and syndromes. 

He has responsibility for undergraduate and postgraduate psychiatry training, and is particularly committed to sharing his enthusiasm for clinical psychiatry with medical students. He also remains research active, continuing to publish on many areas of psychiatry, psychological treatments, epidemiology and military health.