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Sarah Campbell

Sarah Campbell

Head of Business Development

A Melting Pot of Mental Health Approaches

Stunning architecture, warm weather, clean streets, and welcoming people are all things I discovered about Vilnius, the capital of the Republic of Lithuania. I also found out it is the country with the highest rates of suicide in Europe.

I had the pleasure of travelling to this complex and beautiful country to attend the Mental Health Europe General Assembly. A melting pot of mental health approaches, tools, policies, and practices from across Europe.

Those attending talked of countries at different stages of their journey, but a common thread ran throughout – learning from the lived experience of those with their own mental health experience, placing human rights at the centre of all practices and crucially, acknowledging the whole person and their experiences as central to responses.

In so many stories told, it was apparent that community was central to people’s recovery journey. Positive outcomes were achieved not in an isolated intervention but in relationships. Relationships between supported people and their neighbours and relationships between professionals. Hearing the stories from other nations really made me appreciate how far we have come in Scotland.

Hearing the stories from other nations really made me appreciate how far we have come in Scotland. 

Landscape image showing the Vilnius skyline.
Group photo of Lithuanian Health Minister, Arūnas Dulkys, and others smiling.

Multidisciplinary working across third sector organisations and statutory providers, such as GPs, social work and hospital teams can often be tricky, but it is also something we recognise as essential in providing people with the best possible care. In many places this is not yet the case, with non-medical providers finding themselves on the outside of a very closed system.

The General Assembly was opened by the Lithuanian Minister of Health, Arūnas Dulkys. He spoke of a growing appreciation for alternative approaches, community support and learning from the European Best Practice. As a nation there is a growing commitment to learning from lived experience, reducing stigma, and ending discrimination. Lithuania is implementing a suicide prevention algorithm; the terminology sounds bureaucratic, but the reality is an approach in which relationships are central. Meeting people where they are, giving them time and listening. It really resonated with Scotland’s approach to provide time, space, and compassion.  

Mental Health Europe Chair, Catherine Brogan captured the significance of the event in her address, “everyone’s voices need to be heard, friends across nations can all learn from one another. It may be messy, but so it should be!”.

Huge thanks to Sarah for sharing your trip to Lithuania’s capital.

To find out more about Penumbra visit our campaign page: penumbra.org.uk/journeys

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