Reflections on the 2011 AGM by Dr Rosemary Lethem
The venue was The Retreat, famous for having pioneered humane treatment for the mentally ill which has been taken up by institutions around the world. To a (retired) psychiatrist, it was worth a visit in its own right. The main building is much as it originally was, and William Tuke’s (see below) chair is still in the boardroom (where the DSN’s Northern group, which I facilitate, meets).
I estimate 20 – 25 members were present, the majority involved in running DSN, but including a number of others. A very attractive programme had been put together, with authoritative speakers. The main themes were: services for doctors, the history of The Retreat and – yes – laughter yoga....
Services for doctors
We started, after being welcomed and partaking of tea, coffee and biscuits, which were available throughout the day, with a presentation by Dr Richard Duggins, Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy, House Concern, on Services for Doctors.
He detailed the existing services available both regionally and nationally for doctors with mental health issues and then described the development of House Concern, a newly established service for doctors and dentists working in the Northern Deanery, which is able to offer rapid access and specialist psychotherapy. As yet, access to comparable services elsewhere is decidedly patchy.
The next talk was the History of The Retreat
by its Medical Superintendent, Dr Chris Holman. Returning to the AGM, Alison Holt (DSN Secretary), herself a GP, gave us an update on training being developed for GPs treating doctors with mental health problems further south. The next slot was a pleasant buffet lunch, also attended by our speakers, which I, for one, appreciated. Then came the post lunch slot on 'Laughter Yoga' by Robin Graham (who is hard to pigeon hole but was not a doctor himself), which was highly interactive. Presumably I don’t need to say that laughter is relaxing, distracting, mood elevating and generally promoting of well being? We started, in a circle, by simulating laughter (saying ‘ho ho ho/ha/hee’ to each other), and before long most people, whether by genuine amusement, contagion, embarrassment......, were laughing too. I should add that nobody was forced to participate: anyone could sit out of any of the exercises. This would have been a difficult act to follow, so it was just as well that the conference part of the day ended there. The formalities of the AGM were dispensed with remarkably quickly: all the officers re-elected, and, with minor changes, the committee too. Finances currently are buoyant; increased publicity is planned and there is beginning to be outreach to major conferences: all very encouraging. To round off a very satisfying day, both socially and intellectually, some of us had drinks and an early evening meal at an Italian restaurant in the city.