November 15, 2018

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By IEPA President, Peter B. Jones.

My two-year term as IEPA President soon ends. It has been the culmination of several years on the IEPA Board, first as Vice-President for Europe, then President Elect for two years, and since 2016, IEPA President. This system of sequential presidential roles is a strong one, ensuring organisational memory. I have been grateful for the support I have received from the other board members and officers while I have been President, and look forward to working with the incoming board members over the next two years in my new role as Past President.

There’s no doubt that the high point of my presidency has been the IEPA 11 conference in Boston, especially with the final events dedicated to World Mental Health Day. With 1020 delegates and their positive reviews juxtaposed with exciting times for early intervention (EI) in the USA, it was a terrific meeting, thanks to the commitment, hard work and enthusiasm of everyone concerned. I named many in my opening and closing remarks at the conference but want to reiterate my gratitude to absolutely everyone including the sponsoring organisations.  We paid tribute to the late Larry Seidman for his scientific contributions to our field as well as for bringing the IEPA to Boston; welcoming Ilene Seidman to present the inaugural award in his name was a moving experience. We honour the achievements of many through the increasing range of IEPA prizes we award.

There was a great deal of innovative and important mental health science presented throughout the conference, much of it emphasising the importance of the second and third decades of life for early intervention across a diagnostic spectrum. I have written here before about my own evolving understanding of adolescence as a kaleidoscopic and pluripotent mental state, in addition to the fundamental importance of depression and anxiety. These understandings were emphasised and extended by stunning plenary lecturers and other presentations.

But the vitality of the IEPA meetings goes beyond science. It is fuelled by our deep interdisciplinarity and the possibilities in the conference for spanning boundaries, allowing those developing services and delivering interventions to exchange ideas with others researching innovative prevention programmes, new therapeutics or strategies to support recovery. The exchanges are multilateral, professionally refreshing and unique from most organisations and conferences. Linking science to policy is something few professional organisations achieve as well as we do. IEPA is a convivial and supportive organisation, with early intervention in mental health as a common purpose that unites us.

There have been important changes for IEPA over recent years as were expressed in Boston. The first, already mentioned, is our extended focus from psychosis to the wide range of conditions that have their roots in development and for which the early intervention approach will be beneficial. We all need to make sure this new knowledge is implemented, globally.

The second is the international reach that has been fuelled by our strategic use of social media and refreshed website. IEPA is grateful for the financial support from H. Lundeck A/S and Otsuka that has allowed us to seize these new tools and translate our content into French and Portuguese. Social media was extremely effective for us over the conference period, greatly extending our influence and encouraging registrations and memberships. Boston also saw the beginning of IEPA meetings for a thriving Francophone contingent. Organising the IEPA 12 conference in Rio de Janeiro recognises our responsibility to reach out to new continents, as well as supporting the tremendous developments in EI research and practice in South America. Thanks are due to Rodrigo Bressan and his local committee for taking this on.

The third development, perhaps the most important, is the increasing prominence of people with lived experience and families in both research and practice. This is a rapidly moving field that I have no doubt IEPA will only be stronger for embracing, and will also begin to lead the change in, given the excellence of the scientific base and activities already undertaken by IEPA members. Having this represented on the Board through Nev Jones will ensure the field is high on our agenda, particularly as in the UK we are now being urged to call on public and community involvement, engagement and participation (PCIEP).The satellite events for people with lived experience sponsored by the Broad Institute and the iFEVR and iphYs post-conference events were high points in Boston.

So it’s time to look forward, and to pass on the Presidency to Lucia Valmaggia from the new year onward. Based at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College in London, Lucia is our sixth President and the first clinical academic psychologist to hold that office. She is a world leader in the field of virtual reality and digital mental health. These are areas that, as we were reminded of in Boston, are an important part of the future for early intervention, because for young people, it is the present. Lucia’s expertise (that includes being multilingual), experience and deft touch, encapsulates much of what IEPA requires if it is to continue to grow and to increase its relevance. I have got to know her well over the dozens of late night IEPA 11 teleconferences we’ve shared, and I wish her and all our members the best of luck for 2019-2020.

See you in Rio!