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mindyourmind’s Scarlett attends Stockholm mental health conference

I recently had the honour of attending the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) conference in Stockholm, Sweden on behalf of mindyourmind. It was an incredible experience that I’m not sure I can even capture in words; to be surrounded by people from across the world who were avidly passionate about mental health and the need to make changes, was an absolute privilege.

Briefly, the IIMHL is an international collaborative (comprised of Australia, England, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, USA, and Sweden) that aims to improve mental health and addictions services. The IIMHL organizes systems to provide opportunities for international innovation sharing, networking, and problem solving across countries and agencies. The Leadership Exchange conference is a week long event and is held every 16 months. It is broken into two parts, leadership matches and network meetings.

The first two days were the leadership matches. Each had different topics (e.g. digital technologies for mental health, school mental health, cross-sectoral policies for suicide prevention, innovative approaches to mental health in primary care, to name a few) and were an opportunity to share knowledge and problem solve on the particular topic of interest. The match I signed up for was about youth engagement, specifically young people’s involvement and advocacy in service design and delivery, policy, and research. In addition to some incredibly enriching conversations and knowledge exchanges, we were lucky enough to visit a youth-led mental health support service in Stockholm – talk about inspiring!

The Wednesday was considered a travel day for those who attended matches outside of Stockholm and may have needed extra time to travel there before the network meetings started on the Thursday. For myself and the others in my match, it meant we got to do some extra sightseeing and bonding!

After our day of fun it was back to work for the network meetings which involved seminars and speakers, world cafés, brainstorming sessions, and we were also able to choose workshops we wanted to attend. The workshops involved hosts delivering short presentations summarizing what was discussed and discovered from the two day matches they participated in at the beginning of the week, and then there could be interactive sessions, larger and smaller seminars, knowledge sharing, and more. The workshop I chose to attend on Thursday was about promoting resilience and wellbeing in children and families. We discussed the concept of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and how having even one reliable adult in your life can reduce the risks associated with ACEs by up to 50%. We also got to learn about the various innovations happening in other countries, like the child and adolescent eating disorder programs in Malmo, Sweden and Dublin, Ireland that have apartments for families so that the family can work towards recovery together with their child.

On the Friday, I chose to attend the workshop on service and system design. We learned about different co-creation approaches to creating transformation in health systems, mapped out the complex issues in our home countries, identified the things preventing us from change and the areas we can leverage for change.

It was all a wonderful learning experience and I was honoured to also be able to share a bit about mindyourmind and the amazing things we have done, and are doing, that related to all of the workshops I attended. I am so thankful for this life-changing opportunity and am hoping to somehow weasel my way into the next IIMHL conference in Washington D.C. in the fall of 2019!