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EAMHID Congress 2023 - “Peter and Friends” hit Helsinki!

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

By Peter Cronin, Steve Hardy and Eddie Chaplin

We've all been looking forward to coming to Helsinki for ages. When we arrived everyone was friendly and polite and nearly everyone spoke good English because you know how poor at other languages us Brits are. We arrived at the hotel and found it really lovely, in fact it was a little too posh for us from south east London! After we unpacked we started to explore.

We went up to the 16th floor where there was a sky bar, sauna and swimming pool - yes we were in heaven! We then went to the nearest bar and restaurant outside with the lovely Estia gang (Maggie, Karina, Ruwani and Mike):and the beautiful Heidi and Anca from Norfolk. Steve has hemianopia, which means he can't see on his right side. Unfortunately when we were leaving Steve kept trying to open a door on his left but then someone shouted the door is open on the right side. Not my finest hour - the photo is a reactment.

The next day we were up early for breakfast as we were presenting at 9am. We've never had so many choices for breakfast and it was self service. Loads of fish, cheese, sausages, bacon, falafel, scrambled egg, bread and cakes. Did I say there was loads of fish?

We were delivering a pre Congress workshop on our thoughts about staying mentally well, offering tips and of course promoting our publications. The audience was made up of 20 people from Belgium, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway and Germany. They were really participating, diung case studies in groups and were very friendly. We took all their emails and promised to share 'Peter and Friends' books. It obvious that they have true feeling of fairness, human rights and inclusion. They gave us loads of praise at the end. We learnt so much from the participants, they had so many other suggestions as to what may cause stomach pain e.g. unknown pregnancy, abuse, anxiety, Endometriosis etc.

Next was the opening ceremony of the Congress. Introductions were made by the current president and then he proudly introduced a local and inclusive band called 'Reasonaarigroup'. They were so great and they sung in Finnish. We recognised the last song which was by Tina Turner and everyone sang along in English or Finnish 'Simply the best',- it was amazing! Next up was a lovely touching tribute to one of the pioneers of Mental Health in Intellectual Disabilities 'Professor Anton Dosen'. Anton was the original founder of the association and led the very first congress in 1995 in Amsterdam. We all met him over the years and he was a lovely man who was leading the field into the future.

The first keynote speech was from the one and only Professor Nick Bouras. Nick was a great mentor to us over the last thirty years. We all worked with him at the Estia Centre, which he founded in 1999. He developed many nurses now leading figures in this field and we still communicate with each other although on different paths. He spoke about the development of Speciaslist Mental Health in Intellectual Disability Services, his research, training initiatives and the many connections he made around the world.

Pete and Eddie then attended the 'speakers dinner' and Steve had a Trustee Meeting with Dudley Voices for Choices.

It's Friday morning and it's time for Pete and Eddies keynote presentation. They were an absolute phenomenal, a double act and such comedians! They said that that they don't do coproduction but an infusion. They received such great feedback by everyone but the best comment came from Harry who called them 'Del Boy and Rodney' or 'Batman and Robin'!

Next keynote was Jyrki Pinomaa a wonderful family man from a small town in Finland. He has four children all of whom have intellectual disabilities and also have a extremely rare syndrome. You see both Jyrki and his wife both have the gene that leads to this syndrome. Neither knew that the other had the gene and at the time there were only 10 known people to carry this gene in the world and miraculously they met, fell in love and both were Finnish. As well as describing his lovely family and his proudness shined through there are some challenges. One of his kids uses a wheelchair and it broke one day. He described the angst it caused his son because it took six weeks for someone to come out and fix it. Can you imagine not being able to walk around for six weeks? Also during the pandemic he was unable to visit two of his kids and they found this very difficult to understand. We think that Jyrki is an awesome dad!

It was now the final day and time for our last symposium. This was being chaired by Pete and Eddie. Maggie and Rumania from the Estia Centre were first on. They described the great work they do on the LeDeR and showed us some videos they made. These videos were such a great example of making something easy read and dealing with a difficult subject with sensitivity. Maggie gave us ideas of how she got the job at the Estia and described the great reasonable adjustments that they made for her.

Next up was Steve doing a presentation for someone who couldn't make the Congress. The topic was 'Digital Access'. Luckily Pete and Eddie were there to help. The audience were given some facts about digital access from the UK, asked the audience what groups are likely to be excluded from the digital world and ideas on how we can overcome this. It's really sad that in 2023 20% of Europe are digitally disadvantaged.

Last up was Karina from the Estia. She was talking about 'health literacy' especially in mental health settings. She showed us some of her impressive research and found that patients with intellectual disabilities were disadvantaged when staying in general acute mental health wards. Then our time to present at congress was over and we breathed a sigh of relief!

Peter has always acted as a key worker to Eddie and Steve and this support was clearly evident throughout this wonderful Congress! We look forward to Belgium 2025!

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