From Isolation to Connection 24 Jun 2019, Kingsley Hall, London

View and download the full day programme for 24 June 2019 [PDF 1mb], including workshop information, venue details and more…

From Isolation to Connection – was a one day gathering exploring peer and network approaches to mental distress. It was a follow up to our successful first London event in April 2019 – and a chance for a more in depth look at Open Dialogue, a compassionate approach that was developed in Western Lapland in Finland. We also heard about work that has been pioneered by peers in America – at the Icarus Project, and Intentional Peer Support, and how by focusing less on the individual and more on the networks around the person experiencing the crisis – deeper, more lasting change can happen.

From Isolation to Connection took place on Monday 24 June 2019 at Kingsley Hall in Bromley-by-Bow, London.

This one-day gathering was an opportunity to explore alternative approaches for living and working with mental distress. We explored the importance of providing people with a safe and non-judgmental space to explore extreme states, and discover meaning in difficult experiences. We considered how to rethink the way we treat severe mental and emotional distress, and asked is it time to move beyond the one size fits all concept of mental illness as disorder for life?

As with all Compassionate Mental Health events, we are calling for a more compassionate, trauma informed approach to mental distress. Ultimately we hope to work with others towards a new integrative approach, and inspire the growth of safe, healing mental health services that people want to use when they are in crisis.

A key message of all Compassionate Mental Health events is choice not coercion – compassion not control, and the understanding that a mental health crisis can become a meaningful turning point and catalyst for change. Along with many other critical voices – we are calling for a radical shift in the way we understand mental health, changing the script, challenging stigma and raising expectations.

Speakers and facilitators included:

Mark Hopfenbeck – Social anthropologist, and director of a post-graduate program in Open Dialogue and network meetings, Mark is head trainer on the Peer-supported Open Dialogue training run by North East London NHS Foundation Trust and co-investigator in the ODDESSI trial.

Sascha Altman DuBrul – Co-founder of the Icarus Project, a network of peer based mental health support groups and media project that is actively redefining the language and culture of mental health and illness.

Our new Speakers were joined by core Compassionate Mental Health team members Brigid Bowen and Sarah Stone 

All believe that with the right support recovery from mental illness can happen and a mental health crisis can be a transformative process.


Each gathering has been held in a venue that is therapeutic in its own way. Kingsley Hall has a radical 90 year history as a centre of peace activitism, progressive ideas, social justice and community engagement, and in 1965 became the home of RD Laing’s famous and controversial anti psychiatry experiment, using the Hall as an alternative community for treating people affected by mental health crisis.

What it isn’t 

This wasn’t an anti-psychiatry event, or one that proposes a right way to recovery, self management or service improvement. But – along with many other critical voices – we were calling for a radical shift in the way people understand and approach mental health issues.

Our goal is to be part of the global call for better, safer mental health services for all. We hope to do this by building bridges and growing understanding that people in crisis need more than just medicine. Feeling connected, finding meaning in crisis, and sharing tools for stability are all vital for a whole person approach.

There needs to be better funding for mental health services in all settings, and there will be opportunities during the day to share ideas for the future.  Our hope is that we can all move forward together into a more collaborative, compassionate chapter.

Mental health is everyone’s business

Mental illness is one of the biggest challenges of our age. The Mental Health Foundation says that one in four adults and one in ten children are likely to have a mental health problem in any year, and the economic cost to the UK is estimated at an annual 70 to 100 billion pounds.

The mental health system is struggling to cope with growing demand for services, and by 2020 mental ill health related problems will be second to heart disease as the leading contributor to the global burden of disease . Despite this, public spending is focused almost entirely on crisis, with not enough funding for prevention or resilience building. It’s time to look beyond the one in four statistic, and start thinking about mental distress as something that can happen to us all.

“There’s ‘Them’ and there’s ‘Us’. We are well, happy and safe. They are mentally ill and dangerous. Is this really true? Or is the uncomfortable truth that there’s a continuum, a scale along which we all slide back and forth during our lives. When we separate ourselves we hurt those labelled as sick, ill, even mad, but we also hurt ourselves…” Only Us Campaign 

What people say 

“We all experience problems with our mental health at points in our lives. What we often want most at those times is to be met with a compassionate response. Unfortunately that isn’t always what happens in our mental health services. Conferences like this are badly needed to explore why that is and to inspire change so that our services become places of compassion, comfort and hope in dark times.” Anne Cooke, Consultant Clinical Psychologist.


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