Frank Reilly writes beautifully about the conference, the importance of the peer support and ECMH family:
“Berlin was my fourth ECMH conference and I arrived after a difficult journey in the company of a businessman from Scotland. He anticipated being wined and dined during Oktoberfest as a reward for all his hard work through the year. As we both contemplated how we were getting into the centre of the city our paths diverged, figuratively and literally, as I took public transport, and he hailed a cab. The distinction between his hedonistic party and the family reunion that I was heading to was so distinct in my mind. And it was re-emphasised as I neared the hotel to be hailed by a plethora of Finnish voices shouting “hey its Frank”! And there I was, back in the ECMH family, with Aki, Virve, Liisa, Lauri and all the gang.
My ECMH journey had started in 2013 in Turku. I was a brand-new mature part-time PhD student working for the NHS in Scotland, finding my way through the impenetrable world of academia. That conference allowed me to lay all that to rest. It was a safe space to talk about my ideas and explore new ways of doing things. By the time I arrived in Berlin I was the Director of the Scottish Recovery Network, a job I would never have applied for without the conference and support that my ECMH family had helped me develop. And now there was an opportunity to help others have that very same experience.
The seminars, papers, and posters are the reason that European conference exists, but the real heart of ECMH is the network that you leave the conferences with. In Berlin I met old friends like Heikki who encouraged me to follow my dream to become a Doctor of Philosophy, and fellow PhD sufferers like Chris who was well on his way on that journey. We spoke in detail about the struggles of meeting deadlines and negotiating the time needed to complete our studies as we walked to one of the highlights of the conference: a local site visit, Saint Hedwig’s near Alexanderplatz. And all before chairing my very first seminar session, in which I was also presenting. Apart from the fabulous papers presented, the highlight of the afternoon was a raging storm which blew chairs and awnings in a tornado like gyre behind of each of the presenters. This was a typical ECMH event: the unexpected was inevitable, good fun and good relationships just seemed to happen, and life changed yet again.
I can’t wait for Portugal!” Thank you Frank for sharing your thoughts and memories!