Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Recovery and wellbeing: The future of mental health assessment and diagnosis

A week after the end of my Institute’s annual colloquium (on the future of psychiatric assessment and diagnosis), I have just about recovered from it and the run of giving papers at five conferences in five weeks. A bit like organising a party, my involvement in the (shared) organisation of the colloquium ruled out both my being able straight-forwardly to enjoy it and also to have a clear view of how it went. (I'm told it went well.)

Like last year, we were able to invite members of ENUSP (the European Network of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry) to join us. But we also had members of the WPA led by its current president, Prof Juan Mezzich. Coupled with the presence of philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, other local academics and members of national service user networks and our International Fellows (including John Sadler and Carl Bell), this made for a genuinely novel mix.

But it also raised the following challenge. Whilst a purely academic annual conference might comfortably return to the same discussion year after year, this group really wants to change mental health care. (The WPA were present to develop and promote their Institutional Program on Philosophy for the Person; they were, eg., challenged to put on record that psychiatric diagnosis is essentially different from diagnosis of physical illness and Prof John Cox, Secretary General of the WPA - and delightful house guest - said he would provide leadership on exactly this point.) This means that, if next time we meet, we discuss the same state of play, that will be evidence of our collective failure.

That said, next year I plan to hold a colloquium more squarely focussed on the philosophy of psychiatry. If so, we have two years to change the world!