This joint conference was held on 1–3 September 2011 in the Palace Hotel, Manchester, UK. The European Association for Mental Health in Intellectual Disability is a European and interdisciplinary organisation that promotes research and exchange of knowledge on all mental health related aspects in people with intellectual disability. IASSID is an international association for the scientific study of intellectual disabilities. It has been in existence since 1964, and it is the only group worldwide dedicated to the scientific study of intellectual disability. IASSID promotes research and exchange of information on intellectual disabilities across the world. (Links to both organisations are given at the end of this report.)
This was the first time that these two specialist intellectual disability associations held a joint congress. It was hosted by the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) from the British Psychological Society—a division that involves the Faculty of Learning Disability which comprises psychologists working with people with learning disabilities in the UK. The two themes of the congress were Mental Health and Challenging Behaviour, with all the conference topics related those themes. During an extremely comprehensive programme delegates had the opportunity to hear from keynote speakers, attend symposia, individual papers and workshops, contribute to round table discussions and view posters.
The keynote lectures included topics such as:
- Articulating quality of life in the interdisciplinary approach to mental health problems of intellectual and relational developmental disorders by Dr Marco Bertelli, MD, Specialist in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy;
- Acceptance and mindfulness in the field of intellectual disability by Professor Richard Hastings from the University of Bangor, Wales;
- Factors influencing referral pathways into and through forensic ID services by Professor Bill Lindsay a Consultant Clinical Psychologist from Castlebeck, Scotland;
- Randomised controlled trials in intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviours: Current practice and future challenges by Dr Angela Hassiotis from Royal Free & University College Medical School in London.
Individual papers and workshops covered a large variety of themes such as social inclusion; psychotherapy; autistic spectrum; forensic issues; service systems / staff training; dementia; capacity assessment / diagnosis; human rights; challenging behaviour & behavioural phenotypes; community-based services/ living; families; research; mental health promotion; empowerment and support; and quality of life assessment.
The conference had a very packed programme and we delegates found it difficult to decide which elements to attend. However, we think most would agree that the inclusive research project What makes people with a learning disability happy and satisfied with their lives was of particular interest. The project was presented by researchers with and without intellectual disability, using mixed-media. They explained the process and findings of a fully inclusive research project that explored the subjective well-being of people with a learning disability. The group made a film which reflected their research findings, showing that people with intellectual disability have a lot in their lives to be happy about, including their work, social lives and relationships. This research came from a positive perspective which was extremely refreshing, as it focussed on what made people happy and satisfied. The group hope to make the film available shortly on You Tube.
We presented a poster entitled Empowering nurses in practice through education which represented details of two postgraduate option modules on an MSc course available through the School of Nursing in Dublin City University. The modules were designed to meet the educational needs of nurses working with people with intellectual disability and mental health issues. Planned to run sequentially, the course offers students a Concepts and Contexts of Intellectual Disability and Mental Health Nursing module, followed by Therapeutic Interventions in Intellectual Disability and Mental Health Nursing. A cohort of nurses working in this specialist area attended both modules during the academic year 2009/2010 and their views and experiences were captured through a questionnaire one year after completion of their course. Students provided valuable insights with their feedback, such as how the knowledge and skills acquired during their studies had impacted on their practice.