A conference in Germany

Dr Dennis Ougrin, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Supported Discharge Service (SDS), was invited to give a keynote speech at the 35th annual conference of German Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists in Ulm in March 2017.

The keynote speech was on treatment of self-harm in adolescents. Dr Ougrin invited Mandy Sarhane, a senior nurse and a service manager and Stella Branthonne-Foster, a service user, to co-present with him.

The meeting was attended by over 1,500 delegates from all German-speaking countries. The presentation was extremely well-received. Joint presentations by senior clinicians and service users are unusual in Germany, so the presentation received considerable interest and very positive feedback from the delegates.
 
Stella’s story
 
Earlier this year I was asked by Consultant Dr Dennis Ougrin if I would speak at a conference in Germany with him. I of course said yes, and after sorting out practicalities and logistics of flying out, we got the green light to go ahead.
 
It was a bit of a surreal experience – a few years ago I had been under the care of the SDS team which is managed by Dennis and Lead Nurse, Mandy Sarhane, and now I was being offered the opportunity to fly to Germany and speak at a conference with them.

Dennis had been asked to give a keynote speech on the treatment of non-suicidal self-injury in adolescents and I was asked to speak about my personal experiences and what I found had helped in the past/not been so helpful. I’ve spoken at conferences before, but never abroad so it was slightly nerve-wracking!
 
I flew in with Mandy and we got in a taxi to Ulm to meet Dennis for lunch. Being driven down a German autobahn was every bit as terrifying as I’d expected! We walked around Ulm for a little bit and grabbed some food while running over last minute details for our talk. On our stroll, we asked someone to take a photo of us with the cathedral in the background and an unassuming member of the public told us that we’d actually asked the mayor of Ulm for a photo – he was a funny guy and we ended up having another group photo with him included.
 
The talk itself went really well, Dennis spent an hour talking and then handed over to Mandy and myself. Mandy spoke about the nurses' experiences of managing self-harm on the wards. I spoke for about 20 minutes about my experiences of self-harm and things that I’ve found helpful as alternatives.
 
It was an amazing day, we all got home safe (albeit tired!). I’m incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to go along.
 
German Conference

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