The 10th ENMESH (the European Network for Mental Health Service Evaluation) International Conference took place in Verona, Italy on 3-5 October. The conference gave researchers looking at mental health services the opportunity to present findings from their studies and inform policy in order to improve mental health care across Europe.
Mental health services in Europe have experienced change driven by public health developments at EU, national and regional levels. As a consequence, European countries differ widely in the way they organise mental health services. Differences range from cultural definitions of mental illness to the percentage of budgets spent on mental health care. There is also wide variation with regards to the implementation of effective and adequately funded community-based services ensuring social inclusion and recovery; there are concerns where services may be lacking or not sufficiently focused. However, innovative and effective approaches have also been developed and evaluated.
Opening the conference, Robert Drake, Director at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, looked at the use of IT and new technology to manage mental health conditions; he spoke of the development of adapted smartphones for people with hallucinations, as well as effective programmes, such as therapeutic education systems for people with substance abuse. Mr Drake referred to the effectiveness of randomised control trials of audio and screen devices for non-readers and people living in remote areas.
Parallel sessions looked at the organisation of mental health systems across Europe, the reduction of socio-economic inequalities, recovery-oriented psycho-social interventions, and the improvement of communication between professionals and services users.
Projects presented at the conference included REFINEMENT, which is the first ever comparative and comprehensive overview of links between the financing of mental health care in Europe and the outcomes of mental health services across nine European countries. Researchers applied the REMAST toolkit which is a services inventory; they looked at policies, socio-economic index as well as geographical information. Particularly important was the analysis of geographical accessibility of services for which an Atlas was developed.
Cecilia Areberg from Lund University in Sweden presented a randomised control trial that demonstrates that participation in individual placement and support schemes in competitive employment increases the empowerment of service users and their engagement in community life as compared to participants in traditional vocational approaches.
The Department of Social Services in Aarhus, an ESN member, presented the third wave of implementing the recovery approach. This is characterised by an open dialogue initiative with users aimed at their engagement in the implementation process as well as in measuring their personal outcomes. As a follow up to the ENMESH conference, an abstracts book has been published.
The implementation of local mental health services focused on recovery has been an important working theme for European Social Network (ESN). We worked on this issue in our Mental Health working group and produced a report (English, Italiano, Español, Français, Deutsch) where we presented examples of recovery in various European countries.