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Are We a Culture of Recovery?

18 October 2013

Does culture have a role to play in recovery in mental health? Should culture be integrated into future mental health policy and how can enabling recovery in mental health leave a lasting legacy for the City of Culture 2013? These are just some of the questions down for discussion at next week’s 10th annual mental health conference at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus next week.

The theme for the two day event which is hosted by the School of Nursing is ‘Delivering Excellence and Supporting Recovery’.

Conference organiser and mental health nursing lecturer, Marie O’Neill, explains the thinking behind the theme: “UK City of Culture is a very significant milestone for the city so we thought it would appropriate to consider how different aspects of culture can facilitate and aid recovery from mental illness.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that culture plays a significant role in the manifestation, treatment, and course of psychiatric disorders. It is this complex interaction of biological, personal and social factors within our cultural context that presents a challenge for individuals and communities exploring recovery in mental health.”

The Magee based academic continued: “Recovery is not a word many people use when talking about mental health but it was first used in the 1960s by mental health patients who wanted to live a satisfying, hopeful and contributing life despite having mental health difficulties and there is much anecdotal evidence that art and creativity can facilitate recovery.

“Recovery approaches are increasingly being embraced by patients, practitioners and policy makers around the world and in the past decade there has been an emergence of what has been called a recovery approach to mental health in the UK, North America, Australia and New Zealand.”

One of the highlights of the conference programme will be an open forum on ‘Are We a Culture of Recovery?’ which takes place in the Guildhall on Tuesday, October 22 at 7 pm and will be chaired by the University of Ulster Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Professor Hugh McKenna.

Panellists will include a number of people well known for their support and involvement in a wide variety of arts and community projects: Denis Bradley, founding member and former chairman of Northlands alcohol and drugs residential counselling centre; Kitty O’Kane, Mind Yourself; Ollie Green, Director of Greater Shantallow Community Arts group; Tony Doherty, General Manager of Bogside & Brandywell Health Forum; John Bell, yoga instructor; Liam Quigley, Assistant Director for Day Support and Community Services with Niamh (Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health); Oonagh McGillion, Director of Legacy, Derry City Council; Professor Frank Lyons, Director of the Arts & Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) at the University of Ulster.

Mrs O’Neill continues: “The panel will look at different aspects of culture such as art, music, visuals, community projects and cultural heritage and consider how to harness this creative energy to challenge social and cultural stigma around mental health.

“This will be an ideal public platform to discuss the role of culture in supporting and enabling recovery in mental health and how culture could contribute to achieving a sustainable and vital legacy for the Derry~Londonderry City of Culture year. It could also feed into wider discussions on the Bamford Review of Mental Health and Disability aim to have ‘recovery at the heart of all mental health services’.

“The forum is free and open to everyone interested in contributing to the debate about the culture and its role as both an enabler and facilitator of recovery in mental health. We hope to have a good representation of mental health professionals, service users, carers, cultural representatives, council representatives, community workers, school and further education representatives in the audience so are looking forward to a lively and entertaining discussion,” she adds.

The conference programme also includes a series of keynote presentations and plenary sessions and workshops with contributions from academics, frontline NHS staff and service users from across the UK and Ireland. Keynote addresses will be given by Dr Mary Chambers, Professor of Mental Health Nursing, Kingston University and St George’s University of London; Dan Neville TD President of the Irish Association of Suicidology; John Crowe Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Nottingham and Rory O'Connor Professor of Health Psychology, University of Glasgow.

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