The last live conference was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The weather outside was sometimes stormy, but the atmosphere inside was warm. Khadej Fall from Canada participated for the first time to ECMH and here are some of her thoughts about the conference:

“As I prepare for my upcoming and long-anticipated journey, it is hard to believe that in two weeks from today I will be able to reconnect with some of the most amazing like-minded individuals and souls I have met in my adult life at the annual European Conference on Mental Health!

About three years ago, I was on a new journey as a newly certified Yoga Instructor and Mental Wellness advocate when I learned about ECMH. I, personally, believe that the universe often tries to lead us in the direction of a path that we are supposed to explore and, in 2019, that path led me from Canada all the way across the pond to Northern Ireland in the U.K.. I was excited and terrified about attending the ECMH for the first time, but knew that doing so was one of the biggest first steps towards me doing what I’ve discovered I love to do: helping people. I arrived the day before the conference began and was invited to an evening cocktail get together from the organizers. I stood at a distance in the corner of the room when one of the coordinators, Virve, came up to me and introduced herself. She recognized my name from our frequent correspondences throughout the year and showed me who was who and what was what. I said “I am nervous because I am not sure what I should be doing here” and she smiled and warmly said, “All you have to do is be yourself and it will be all be great, you’ll see!” And from that moment on, I saw that she was right!

That night I met many people including researchers, presenters, keynote speakers, and all the organizers including but not limited to Lauri and Liisa.

The first day of the conference, I presented myself at the beautifully set up conference centre located right on the Liffy River and Virve – yes there she was again! – suggested that I attend the “Walking Football” workshop as my first workshop of the conference. I entered the room where I found two teams getting ready to start playing and before I could find a seat to sit and watch, I was asked to join as they needed an extra player for their team. Out of awe and shock, I accepted the request and they gave me a team shirt to wear. The workshop was about an hour or so in duration, and within that timeframe, I managed to meet more people from around the world and learned about the benefits from the sport including reduction of anxiety, as well as the onset of dementia. I think my team lost, but what I definitely remember is the great feeling I had after the game, which I then learned was also one of the benefits of the sport.

Light meals were provided for lunches as well as entertainment during breaks. The breaks between workshops and presentations were opportunities to meet with everyone, get to know them, and find out what they were working on. I also heard about many of their experiences from past conferences as well as their successes which was very insightful and exciting to hear about.

I could go on forever about the warm welcome I received, the people I met, the fascinating workshops I got to attend, the keynote speakers and their stories I got to hear, the organized day trips to institutions and discussions with mental health professionals and patients, writing a song in three hours and performing for the conference attendees immediately after finishing it, learning about ongoing and upcoming research with goals to ensure accessibility to support needed to those suffering with mental health issues, the fun galas on the Titanic and dinners during a hurricane, the evening we were hosted by Belfast City Council at Belfast City Hall, learning more about Belfast’s history, winning first prize for a Social Media competition on the last day, the non-judgemental ambience of the whole conference, the beautiful souls, and the list goes on…

I walked away with:

  • More knowledge on Mental Health and the research being done around the world to help provide support to those who need it
  • The ability and confidence to share resources and insights for coping with Mental Health
  • Lifelong friends who I still keep in contact with from Canada to Finland to Iran to the United States and beyond
  • Unique and humbling experiences and perspectives
  • Amazing and happy memories
  • Something to look forward to and actively participate in every year

As I have the past two years online, I look forward to attending the European Conference on Mental Health this year especially, not only because I am sure we have a lot to share in Lisbon about Moving Forward in Times of Change, but ultimately because we will finally be able to get together in person once again.

Virve was right from the beginning after all  – It was and continues to be great!” Thank you Khadej for your posting and if you want to benefit some of Khadej’s yoga teacher skills, you can join her in Lisbon for morning yoga on Friday.