Peaceful Impact Publisher

European Conference on Mental Health 2018

Carita Kilpinen, Entrepeneur, graphic designer & trauma survivor
Anssi Leikola, Psychiatrist, therapist, author and trauma survivor
Mai Peltoniemi, Master of Social Services, community coach, experiential researcher, trainer, neuropsychiatric coach


As things are starting to settle down after the conference, it is a great time to look into our experience. Altogether, the gathering lived up to all our expectations and beyond. The 7th European Conference on Mental Health took place in Split, Croatia. The setting was truly magnificent. The event was organized at a five-star hotel resort by the turquoise shoreline of Dalmatian coast. What got another five-stars from us was the spirit of the conference that was warm, easy-going and equal. Everybody was welcomed with open arms.

There were several interesting keynote speakers. At the opening ceremony, professor Brenda Happell, chair of Scientific Committee, gave an inspiring speech where she highlighted our power to make change and renew ourselves. The keynote speaker of the second conference day, Akiko Hart, left us deeply moved. She was putting in words what we at Peaceful Impact represent: experiential experts as equal professionals with potential for uniquely valuable contributions to the collective awareness in care systems. On the other hand, she talked about how there still exist various unsolved issues regarding the role of experiential experts in the system. How is this kind of work compensated? Can one make a living with it? Akiko made an important point about how we should see experiential experts in executive, decision-making positions. In her writing, she has also expressed her interest in trauma and dissociation and, best of all, she gave a thrilling tweet about our presentation at the conference. Akiko’s impressive speech will be published in our blog later on.

It was interesting that it was namely these two speakers that we considered the most memorable, for to our surprise, Brenda Happell remarked about disagreeing with Akiko on many questions. However, this also reflects the successful spirit of the conference: regardless of differing theoretical approaches and opinions, the dialogue and atmosphere remained appreciative. This open-minded environment allowed for many interesting encounters and conversations, including an excellent panel on the last day where we saw a very brave and open debate on mental health work and its necessity of a paradigm shift.

“It is no coincidence that Finland is internationally known by its role as a bridge-builder and peacemaker. To our minds, the way the conference was arranged and realised represents the Finnish culture, know-how and social design at its best!”

It is cheerful to note that recovery orientation in mental health work is a subject of discussion, but our team was left pondering whether those talking about “using” recovery orientation actually realize the true value and importance of recovery. The significance of recovery for an individual, the hope found and actively manifested, should not be obscured by another trendy topic and empty words: “we are using that recovery orientation too!” Is there true understanding about the significance and advantage of recovery for the society?

During the three days, we got to participate in many thought-provoking presentations. Among the most memorable was the one that Markus Raivio from Kukunori held about Social Design combined with recovery orientation. Social design is a concept familiar from service design and design work – things that are very familiar to us at Peaceful Impact, too. Then there was Mielen ry presenting the results of a project for training and employing experiential experts on an equal footing with professionals. They told about the positive effects of peer work that we too have enjoyed at Peaceful Impact. Still, in our minds, there was one question that was left open: how does this kind of equal working affect the professionals? We were answered by Outi Hietala from InspirOu in her own presentation: the de- and reconstruction of the hierarchies has an empowering effect on professionals, too, which in part shows as better quality of work and well-being at work. Many presentations dealt with participation from a subjective point of view.

Our own set was scheduled at the final part of the final conference day. It was one hour long and a pretty concise pack of information. To be honest, we were a little nervous about whether the seats would be filled with people and not only our own brochures. A couple of minutes before our presentation the room was crowded, so that there was simply no space left for extra listeners. Also between the breaks, the seats were strictly reserved.

In the first part, Anssi introduced some basics in a simple form and elucidated the theory of trauma and dissociation in a nutshell. The subject matter was sustainable psychiatry with the cornerstones of emotional trauma, structural dissociation and polyvagal theory and thus, at the same time, an outline of trauma-informed care. In the next presentation, Carita stirred up the audience by answering many practical questions, as she recounted her personal story of survival and recovery in a form of video presentation. In the third part, the audience was firmly lured apart from their smartphones by Mai, who introduced her study “As though I would not exist – An autoethnography of emotional trauma and recovery”. The study investigates how irrational events and choices in life could be understood through the framework of structural dissociation and emotional trauma. What is real knowledge and understanding – who is healthy and who is sick? Whose knowledge is valuable?
We made an impression, truly reaching our goal!

We were happy to animate discussion about difficult issues and were asked many brave questions. Regardless of the challenging timing of our presentation, it didn’t leave anyone unmoved, neither by content nor by visual appearance. The feedback was very encouraging. Perhaps, for the next conference, we will design our own version of napkins that were sought-after during our presentation, decorated with a Peaceful Impact logo and something like: “Also for professional tears” or “Trauma was not our fault”.

Encouraged by the experience, we will keep sharing our message in Finland and around the world! Until the next event, you can check out our youtube channel for the documentary on trauma and dissociation.

It is no coincidence that Finland is internationally known by its role as a bridge-builder and peacemaker. To our minds, the way the conference was arranged and realised represents the Finnish culture, know-how and social design at its best! This skillful building of cooperation makes one of our best export products, and it is something we are fostering at Peaceful Impact, too. We are grateful for getting to take part in this wonderful and important conference.

Translated from Finnish by Viivi Wahlstedt


Share This