Joint Mental Health Europe - Sto Koluri conference promotes fight against inequality and respect for human rights
"The great suffering of people with mental health problems translates both into higher unemployment and into greater precariousness of jobs," said European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Laszlo Andor in a message during the Mental Health Europe Conference 2012. The conference, which took place on June 15-16 in Split, and gathered close to 200 participants, addressed the topic of social determinants, in a bid to emphasize the role society plays in either reinforcing inequalities, or in combating human rights violations.
Co-organised with the invaluable help of MHE National Focal Point Sto Koluri, the conference featured experts who presented different methods for improving the social environment in schools and workplaces, encouraging inclusion within the community, and developing strong and supportive networks which can have a positive impact on mental health. Speakers, ranging from Jürgen Scheftlein, representing EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli, to Jane Gabriel, Editor of openDemocracy 50.50, emphasized the need for community-based services for people with mental health problems, which promote respect for the individual and uphold human rights. As Jan Pfeiffer, member of the Council of Europe Centre for the Prevention of Torture, said: "European money cannot be used anymore to refurbish large residential institutions.” To achieve this, governments must support representative organizations for people with mental health problems.
User experiences were also upheld and cherished during the conference, because as Deputy Director of the Norwegian General Ministry of Health and Care Services Thor Rogan said: "It is extremely important to recognize that user experience is as valuable as professional knowledge." Participants also agreed that user testimonies must be taken into account when developing policies relevant to people with mental health problems.
MHE and Sto Koluri also hosted a special satellite symposium for participants from Balkan and Eastern European countries right before the conference, which focused on “Post-traumatic stress disorders and their impact on 2nd and 3rd generations.”
During the MHE General Assembly which followed the conference, MHE President Nace Kovac was reelected for another three-year term.