5 Things I learnt at the International Congress
08 February, 2019
Last June, 2,792 delegates descended upon Birmingham for RCPsych's International Congress 2018, to attend speeches, sessions and workshops discussing the most pressing issues and up to date research in psychiatry today.
Below are some lessons that have resonated with psychiatry trainee and clinical editor of the BMJ, Dr Kate Adlington....
1. Professor Wendy Burn can give the England Football team a run for their money….
The President of the RCPsych gave a warm and hearty welcome to all delegates on the first day of conference and managed to keep all eyes on her Opening Address (rather than BBC iPlayer) despite ongoing World Cup action as the England football team beat Panama 5-0. Hopefully Professor Burn’s luck will rub off for the Women’s World Cup and Wimbledon which both coincide with Congress this year – 1st – 4th July 2019.
2. The importance of co-production with service users, carers and people with lived experience….
As usual, the most powerful sessions were those delivered or co-produced with service users, carers and people with lived experience. From listening to Jonny Benjamin and his dad talking emotionally and honestly about his experience of mental illness to Peer Support Workers sharing lessons from the work they do in East London NHS Foundation Trust. These sessions keep the learning real and patient-centred.
3. Birmingham is wonderful, especially in the sunshine….
Attendees took full advantage of the cafes and bars along the Birmingham canals at the end of the conference programme each day and the Gala Dinner was in the beautiful Library of Birmingham. Although not in Birmingham this year, the Congress social programme will be an opportunity to explore sunny London instead. Which begs the question, where will the annual Congress morning run be this year?
4. Theories of schizophrenia continue to evolve and Professor Murray continues to entertain….
Professor Robin Murray’s characteristically charismatic keynote covered his thoughts on a psychosis continuum (& where Donald Trump sits on it), recent genetic discoveries of common Copy Number Variants associated and shared between autism, intellectual disability, epilepsy and schizophrenia and the ongoing debate about cannabis and psychosis. He highlighted one study that showed 24% of first episode psychosis patients would not have experienced psychosis if they hadn’t consumed high potency cannabis. His contribution to the Congress 2019 debate about whether recreational cannabis should be legalised promises to be enlightening.
5. Psychiatry teaches us to value stories – both patient stories and our own….
Psychiatrist and author Dr Joanna Cannon spoke artfully about her own non-traditional path to psychiatry, emphasising that valuing our own human stories helps us connect with our patients and their stories. A sentiment echoed by RCPysch Dean Kate Lovett in another session – “Psychiatry likes wise people. Psychiatry likes people that have done other things.”