Welcome to Berlin

The European Association on Mental Health in Intellectual Disabilities (EAMHID) welcomes you to its 13th international congress entitled “From Science to Practice: Improving Mental Health in Persons with ID”. Our mission is to provide a platform for academics, health professionals and policymakers to exchange knowledge and experience in order to improve mental health care and support for people with an intellectual disability throughout Europe. Over the past years we have placed special emphasis on Eastern Europe, fostering international cooperation and numerous projects, e. g. in Croatia, Moldova, Poland and Romania.

The congress is set up in a hybrid format, so people can participate on site in Berlin or online from around the world. The main congress language is English, but some tracks are presented bilingually. Moreover, a workshop track and a scientific program is provided in German for the local participants.

In our scientific program we are happy to present a broad range of topics in different keynotes, lectures, symposia, posters and workshops. All scientific abstracts are published in a special issue of the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (JIDR), which is included in your congress package.

In addition, a rich cultural program awaits you, including musical highlights such as the Brass Players from Lobetal, the Band “Oder so” from Bethel and the pianist Moritz Pinnow from Hamburg, as well the improvisational theatre group Gorillas from Berlin. We hope you enjoy our congress dinner at the restaurant Spreespeicher on 23.09.2021 and all the other numerous opportunities to network and socialize the congress offers.

We would like to thank the German Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hubertus Heil, for his patronage, the v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel for organizing the congress, as well as our German partner organization DGSGB, Kongress- und Kulturmanagment (KUKM) and the numerous donors and volunteers working behind the scenes for their support.

With best regards,

Tanja Sappok
Congress President

Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. Tanja Sappok

Brian Fergus Barrett
Vize-Kongresspräsident

Dr. Brian Fergus Barrett

Welcome Messages

Jürgen Dusel will deliver a welcome message at the 13th International Congress of EAMHID. Jürgen Dusel has been Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities since May 2018. Prior to this, the lawyer was for several years the State Government Commissioner for the Affairs of People with Disabilities in Brandenburg. Dusel is severely visually impaired from birth.

Source: Behindertenbeauftragter/Henning Schacht

Video Message from the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen

Video Message from the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Hubertus Heil

Video Message from the Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn

Welcome Message from the Bielefeld University for the EAMHID

Video Message from Persons with Intellectual Disabilities

Interviews with invited Spreakers

Tina Cook

Andre Strydom

Jeanne Farr

Karl Elling Ellingsen

About the EAMHID

The European Association for Mental Health in Intellectual Disability (EAMHID) provides a platform for academics, health professionals and policy makers. The purpose of the Association is to facilitate international cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of mental health in people with an intellectual disability.

Special emphasis is placed on the coordination and promotion of scientific activities and improving standards of care and support throughout Europe.

Interview with Tanja Sappok from the KEH-Report

The Treatment Center for Mental Health in Developmental Disorders (BHZ) at KEH has the psychiatric care mandate for all citizens with intelligence impairment in Berlin. Can you tell us something about your work in this field and the special challenges you face?

I got to know this field of work more or less by chance through the rotation during my psychiatric training and I have to say: I was quickly fascinated and fulfilled by it.

Fascinated because the work is so incredibly varied and exciting. From a medical point of view, it is really challenging because our patients often have such complex physical and psychological clinical pictures that, in the context of the difficult diagnostic clarification, require a broad knowledge and comprehensive experience.

Fulfilled, because the encounter with the people themselves, who so often fall out of all grids, and whose stories and existences are special and individual in every respect, are a great personal enrichment. I especially enjoy the unexpected, the turns that often completely fall out of every convention. For example, when I talked to a patient about his three biggest wishes in the context of a book project, he first answered, as expected, with "music, lots of music", because he is really a talented musician, but then he mentioned as a second wish "a star, such a real real star as it is in the sky", and he did not have a third wish, which was enough for him, at least at that time and in this situation. Who then comes up with such an idea to wish for a star, and a real real real star as it is in the sky? But it is just such remarks that make me think "out of the box". This creates distance to the usual everyday business and opens up new spaces.

Finally, I also enjoy the unconditionally necessary interdisciplinary and interprofessional cooperation. With my own, purely medical expertise, I am quickly at my wit’s end when it comes to the treatment of people with severe mental and multiple physical disabilities. I indispensably need the expertise of other disciplines and specialties. For such a curious person like me, this is absolutely wonderful. You never get bored. I learn more every day and grow beyond myself. That is a wonderful experience, and it is even more wonderful to have this experience in the community with my colleagues. It can also happen that a cake is baked for one or the other "masterpiece" and we eat it together....

The BHZ turned 20 last year. How has the work changed during this time?

Oh, a lot has happened in all these years. Our knowledge has continuously developed and differentiated, and we now have many more examination instruments and therapy options at our disposal.

"Autism", for example, was rather a rare diagnosis in the infancy of the BHZ, but we now know from our own and external studies that about 20% of our patients suffer from an autism spectrum disorder. Earlier diagnoses, e.g. of a borderline disorder (because of the impulse control disorder) or schizophrenic psychosis (because of the insensitive behavior and sensory peculiarities), were therefore revised under certain circumstances and a new therapeutic path was taken.

The emotional developmental approach introduced by Anton Dosen also led to a re-conceptualization of psychiatry in people with intellectual impairment: both the behaviors shown and the psychiatric diagnoses depend on the emotional developmental age. While e.g. oppositional and impulsive behavior is typical and expected at an emotional reference age of 3-4 years, it can have a pathological value in e.g. a 50-year-old. This approach helps us to better understand what is going on in people, how they perceive the world, how they process perception, and why they behave when and how. We can also choose targeted therapy methods that are more effective and therefore more successful depending on the emotional reference age.

The introduction of the pedagogical professional group into the treatment team, both in the professional group of nursing and therapy, was also a milestone for the changed work in the BHZ. This not only made it possible to integrate pedagogical concepts and treatment methods, but also to make the transfer of treatment results into the natural living environment of the persons better and more sustainable.

What has unfortunately remained unchanged are the structural conditions, which are no longer up to date. However, I am confident that the long-planned new building will finally go into operation next year.

In September, as Congress President, you will organize the 13th European Congress on Mental Health in Intellectual Disability. What is the European Association for Mental Health in Intellectual Disability (EAMHID) and what is the idea behind the congress?

The European Association for Mental Health in Intellectual Disability, EAMHID, is the European partner organization of the German Society for Mental Health in Intellectual Disability (DGSGB). It was founded in the early 1990s by Anton Dosen and colleagues in the Netherlands and works to improve the mental health of people with intellectual disabilities by providing a platform for scientists and practitioners. This is done on the one hand by organizing biennial scientific congresses, which take place in different European countries, but also by master classes in connection with the biannual board meetings, by coordinating European research proposals, by supporting special interest groups such as the Network of Europeans on Emotional Development (NEED), and by publishing and editing scientific papers and books, e.g. in the associated journal Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (JIDR).

The EAMHID Congress itself offers numerous events and meeting places for scientists and practitioners, but also for people with disabilities and their families. I am looking forward to welcoming people from all over Europe in Berlin and "online", because the upcoming EAMHID Congress will be offered as a hybrid congress for the first time in its history. I sincerely hope that the impulses emanating from this will sustainably improve the medical care and support of people with intellectual disabilities in the German-speaking world.

The motto of this year's congress is "From Science to Practice: Improving Mental Health in People with Intellectual Disabilities" - can you tell us a bit more about the contents?

We are very well on schedule with the congress organization, which will now be offered in a new kind of Hybid format. This will allow us to react flexibly to the pandemic situation at this time and to ensure that everyone can attend the congress safely. The invited speakers for the Keynote, State-of-the-Art, and Meet-the-Expert lectures are already fixed. We are expecting Marco Bertelli from Italy, Andre Stydrom and Chris Oliver from Great Britain, Peter Vermeulen from Belgium, Jeanne Farr from the U.S.A., and great speakers from Germany like Christine Preißmann, Nicole Strüber and Michael Seidel. In addition, there will be 8 pre-congress workshops in English and 10 in-congress workshops in German language. In addition to the latest developments in important topics such as autism, dementia, behavioral disorders, genetics, trauma and psychopharmacotherapy, newer aspects such as Covid-19, resilience research, sexual preference disorder for the child's body schema, theater therapy or parenthood with intellectual disability will also be covered.

It was also important to me personally to address the topic of "T4", the sterilization and extermination campaigns in the Third Reich. I think that we in Germany cannot host such an innovative scientific congress "on the pulse of time" without remembering the injustice that happened to many people with disabilities in the German past. For this purpose, there will now be a T4 memorial service, Prof. Seidel will give a historical lecture about it, and we offer an accompanied excursion to the T4 memorial in Brandenburg.


Another goal for us at the congress is not only to talk about disability, but also to actively involve people with disabilities in the congress organization and to enable them to participate. For example, we have Daniel Treder as a permanent member of the local organizing committee, people with disabilities host workshops themselves and are part of the organizing team during the congress, and there is a discounted congress participation fee. Co-productive symposia offer a good platform for active congress participation of people with disabilities. A program booklet in easy language enables all participants to inform themselves and find their way around. My wish is to create real meeting and discussion spaces at eye level and in all aspects of the congress, so that people with disabilities are not only responsible for an entertaining break program.

Finally, in addition to the scientific program, we have planned a rich and varied cultural program, from the opening ceremony with guests such as Mr. Dusel, the Federal Government Commissioner for Disabled Persons, Mr. Jonitz, the President of the Medical Association and participants of Special Olympics, to a Welcome Reception with the Bethel band "Oder So", to the Congress and Speakers Dinner with musical and "Berlin-typical" cultural supporting program.

Who can participate in the congress?

The EAMHID Congress is a scientific congress that lives from the contributions of the participants. We therefore invite scientists from all over the world, but also practitioners, who want to inform themselves about current developments and medical and therapeutic standards. The congress is also open to people with disabilities and their families. I think that with the partly unusual formats like the In-Congress Workshops, but also the translation of the Keynote and State of the Art Lectures, there is something exciting to discover for everyone.

Of course, the Corona pandemic cannot be ignored when organizing an event - is there already a backup plan in case the congress cannot take place in the originally planned scope?

You're right, you have to react to the situation, you can't just continue business-as-usual. We therefore decided at the last EAMHID and DGSGB board meeting to offer the congress in a hybrid format. This allows participants to attend the congress even if they cannot attend in person. The presentations from the different rooms will then be available live-stream for registered participants and there will be the possibility to write your own contribution in advance and send it in as a video. Depending on the development of the pandemic, we will also offer the participants on site a safe participation through a good hygiene concept. We have gained a lot of knowledge about this in the past weeks.

All in all, however, I remain optimistic and assume that we will have an inspiring congress in Berlin next September, which will hopefully also inspire many young people to work with people with disabilities and have a positive effect on life in Germany.

Tanja Sappok, in November 2020