My top ten highlights from Congress
1) Networking - meeting new people, putting faces to names, making new friends
My first highlight from the conference was not one of the actual sessions, but something I had the opportunity to do each day throughout the conference - networking. I had the opportunity to meet lots of new people from my fellow social media champions (who were students and trainees), all the way to the college officers or speakers and chairs.
I was able to meet people with whom I’d had previously only been able to engage with online - and finally put a face to those twitter handles!
Conferences like Congress provide a huge opportunity to meet like-minded people and make connections, and where better than the largest ever international congress to date - with over 3,000 delegates from 59 different countries!
2) Cannabis Debate
This was a particular highlight for me as we used slido to have interactive polls and questions from the audience - it was great to have such involvement in the huge auditorium and see how the results of the polls changed after the debate.
3) Louis Theroux - A TV Presenter’s perspective
The audience was left captivated by Louis, impressed with how respectful and humble he was as he discussed matters of consent when making documentaries.
He told us how consent operates on a ‘rolling basis’ and patients can opt out at any time, with an edited version of the film being checked by them before it is finalised.
We had the privilege to hear him reflect on the making of mental health themed documentaries and the impacts these might have on the subject, those around them, the audience and himself.
”I’m aware of the quirks of my own mind and find it reassuring to find people are almost as odd as me,” said Louis in response to being asked where his interest in psychiatry came from. “It allows me to establish an intimacy.”
It was an unusual chance to hear Louis talk about his programme making style, and hear Wendy Burn, President of the RCPsych, tell him he would make a fantastic psychiatrist, as he is a great listener.
4) Kate Lovett - Where were all the women?
Kate’s talk followed an informative session about the history of the RCPsych and APA, which were delivered to us by Adrian James and Robert Batterson, respectively.
I had heard a lot about Kate Lovett being a fantastic speaker, but to say I was blown away by her talk would be an understatement. It was informative yet personal, emotional and funny whilst also inspiring and full of hope.
5) Blogging and social media masterclass
This was one of my favourite sessions this week. I was able to meet a few of my favourite psychiatrists on twitter with whom I had been interacting for the last few months, and learn so much from them, including blogging and twitter tips for professionals.
6) The National Safety Improvement Programmes: Delivering Safety at a Scale
This session started off with a very moving personal story from Tony Harrison, whose daughter took her own life.
He spoke with an emphasis on removing stigma around self harm and suicide. He asked why we use the phrase “committed suicide” when it is not a crime? In what case is a suicide ever “successful”? If we, in the medical profession, can’t get the language right, how can we expect others to?
Prof Nav Kapur (one of my tutors at uni!) followed, discussing a national quality improvement project designed to prevent events of suicide. He showed us about organisational factors in preventing suicide and how staff can impact suicide rates. Studies show teams with a higher staff turnover rate have higher suicide rates!
Then Emily Cannon discussed Reducing Restrictive Practice (RRP) collaborative as a wider part of a wider Mental Health Safety Improvement Programme (MHSIP) from the Collaborating Centre for Mental Health.
7) Anita Thapar - ADHD Genetics in the 21st Century - What does it mean for clinicians?
Prior to attending this keynote I would not have expected this topic to make it into my Top 10, especially amongst the vast number of hugely interesting sessions the Congress program had to offer this year.
But Anita was such an eloquent speaker, and had an incredible talent of making such a complicated topic seem so understandable, manageable and yet still fascinating.
8) Anorexia Nervosa, a father and daughter perspective
A moving keynote from Mark Austin and his daughter Maddy, with Mark Berelowitz and Rachel Bannister. This was such a brave and insightful but heartbreaking talk about living with anorexia.
9) Femi Oyebode's keynote
Femi was such an engaging speaker that (even in my role as social media champion) I forgot to tweet in his keynote!
He spoke without any notes or visuals about hallucinations - and how by definition, we currently understand them to be perceptions without a stimulus , but suggested that as you can get a hallucination based on touch or smell - and the audience followed every single word.
10) Simon Wessely - the ex president of RCPsych
Simon was another captivating speaker. He took us through a whistle-stop tour of the Mental Health Act reforms.“To lead a review you need to know absolutely nothing about it".
He said as he told the audience why he was unbiased and thus chosen to lead the review. “Very few of us would walk past someone about to jump off a bridge without trying to do something, this is what the MHA is about.”