by Lisa Andermann
The SSPC annual conference took place in Toronto, Canada for the first time, from May 3-5, 2013. Also for the first time, it was a collaborative effort with two cosponsors, the University of Toronto (which provided accreditation and CME credits) and the Hong Fook Mental Health Association. The Hong Fook Mental Health Association is a community-based organization providing mental health resources, case management, family support and education for the Asian population in the Greater Toronto Area.
The first day of this year’s meeting was a joint session with the biennial Diversity in Mental Health and Addictions Conference, spearheaded by Hong Fook and a group of front line community organizations as well as several teaching hospitals. There were four sessions sponsored by SSPC during the day, with opportunities to attend other conference workshops as well. Topics included stigma amongst youth; stigma in HIV affected populations; culture and DSM-V; traditional healing; research on stigma; self-stigma and social stigma amongst peer support workers; and perinatal mental health in diverse communities. This was followed by 2 SSPC-only days on Saturday and Sunday, and included a special case formulation session for psychiatry residents.
Following welcomes by SSPC President Steven Wolin, Hong Fook Executive Director Bonnie Wong and University of Toronto’s Molyn Leszcz, the conference began with an excellent keynote presentation by Heather Stuart, the first chair in anti-stigma research in mental health, from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The discussion that took place after the keynote, moderated by Kenneth Fung, also included an opportunity for interaction between the multidisciplinary participants around the tables, and for SSPC members to interact with new colleagues in Toronto.
After the rich diversity of morning and afternoon workshops, the first day ended with a panel session on peer support and reflections from persons and family members with lived experience of mental illness, moderated by Molyn Leszcz, followed by a reception hosted by SSPC.
The Charles H. Hughes Memorial Fellowship Lecture was given by Sara Lewis, PhD candidate from Columbia University, who spoke about her experience among Tibetan refugees and their practice of compassion and “mind training” as a form of coping and resilience.
One of the highlights of the conference was a media presentation by Mohan Agashe, a psychiatrist and actor from India, moderated by Jaswant Guzder, who used films and video clips to highlight how film could be used as a way to explore reactions to mental illness and disability including stigma, discrimination, family support and empathy. Dr. Francis Lu also shared some of his teaching videos addressing stigma and mental illness amongst immigrant populations in the United States.
As one of the local co-hosts, together with Kenneth Fung, we hope that everyone enjoyed their experience in Toronto and look forward to seeing you next year in San Diego!