The 2023 ISPS-US annual conference “Humanity in Solidarity: Sharing the Journey Through Psychosis and Extreme States” at the University of Delaware lived up to its promise and title. There was a very warm, supportive and empathic tone throughout the conference, as well as a challenging one: challenging our reductionistic systems of care to be more person, relationship and socially focused with an emphasis on social and restorative justice. Also, challenging ourselves to be aware of how we could be both oppressor and oppressed, or in another language, persecutor and persecuted. Another theme I observed was how persons are, or can be, ‘wounded healers.’
Thanks to all of the persons who worked hard to bring this very meaningful conference to fruition, including all those who worked ‘behind the scenes’: Claire Bien (the ISPS-US President), Leah Giorgini (Executive Director), Kristine Vliet (Operations Director), Marie Brown (Vice President), Nancy Burke (Secretary), Halle Thurnauer (Treasurer), all of the speakers, moderators, and of course all of the attendees.
Starting with a wonderful keynote address by Pat Deegan: “How Do You Roar? A Reflection on Becoming More Human Together”
(see her Common Ground Program: https://www.commongroundprogram.com/) and setting the tone for the entire conference. Thirty years ago, Pat Deegan was invited to speak at Rockland Psychiatric Center, a state psychiatric hospital in NY. She made her grand rounds talk contingent on the ‘patients’ being able to attend as well, and to have time on the grounds before and after her talk before returning to their units. This was the first time I saw a Rounds presenter make that humanistic request at RPC. At that time, I used the newsletters from the National Empowerment Center (NEC)-founded by Pat, Dan Fisher, and others, in the psychoeducation groups, community meetings and at times in group therapy meetings at RPC.
This keynote was followed by “Cross-Movement Solidarity as a Catalyst for Social Transformation” with Leah Giorgini, Dustin Gibson, Stefanie Lyn-Kaufman-Mthimkhulu, Nadia Naomi Mbonde & Vesper Moore. After which was a wide choice of various presentations.
On the second day of the conference, the keynote address was given by Vesper Moore: “Collective Liberation: Navigating the Path to Mental Health Activism and Autonomy.” Followed by “Spirituality, Wholeness, Culture, and Faith” presented by Robert Bergner, Claire Bien, Derek DeForest, Denise Maratos, Terresa Ford, and John Calvin Chatlos. After which was a wide choice of presentations.
On the third day of the conference, the keynote address was given by Willard Ashley Sr.: “Pancakes, Waffles, or French Toast: What We Define as Psychosis Makes A Difference.” Followed by “Finding Healing in Solidarity: Navigating Systems, Relationships, and Self,” with Tricia Stafford, Annie Stafford, Kenny Brown, Amber Brown, Claire Bien, and Pat Wright. After which was a wide choice of presentations.
The themes of this conference ranged from social and restorative justice to integrative models of helping people, and much in-between, e.g., spirituality, solidarity with Ukranian psychoanalysts (Francoise Davoine), lived experiences, family experiences, Open Dialogue, Hearing Voices Network,stigma and anti-stigma programs, trauma, housing, the creative arts therapies, individual dynamic psychotherapy and so much more.
There was also some discussion on the origins of ISPS, its evolution and development, etc.
For those interested, an ISPS volume edited by Yrjö O. Alanen, Ann-Louise Silver & Manuel González de Chávez details its growth from 1956 to 2006 and is available for free at ISPS-Danmark: