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Mental health recovery: 500 messages of hope

500 balloons, each carrying a ‘message of hope’, were released on Tuesday 3rd June at New Hunt’s House at King’s College London to mark this year’s Refocus on Recovery mental health conference.

The conference, organised by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s in collaboration with Rethink Mental Illness, brought together nearly 400 people from 22 countries to discuss how mental health services can better support recovery from mental illness. 

Attendees included mental health service users, carers, mental health workers, managers and mental health system leaders. At the end of the two day conference, all were invited to write a message a hope which would be tied to one of 500 balloons and released to the sky.  


Professor Mike Slade, Head of the Section for Recovery at the Health Service and Population Research (HSPR) Department at the IoP at King’s, and academic lead for the conference, said: “By sending off a message by balloon, we want to spread the idea of hope in recovery. Both scientific research and individual stories of recovery are showing that it’s a realistic goal for people with ongoing mental health problems to live a fulfilling and enjoyable life – just like everyone else in our community. 

“Two things are needed. Hope provides the ‘push’; the belief that a better future may be possible and worth striving for. The challenge for society is to increase the ‘pull’; the right supports and opportunities to help people to live as well as possible.”

The conference provided a platform to present and discuss leading international, national and local studies; identify and explore concerns about the meaning of recovery and its practical implications; and consolidate and develop research collaborations.

Key speakers included Graham Thornicroft, Professor of Community Psychiatry at the IoP at King’s; Sonia Johnson, Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry at UCL; Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK; Dr Jan Wallcraft, activist and freelance researcher with personal experience as a mental health service user; Dr Lindsay Oades, Director of the Australian Institute of Business Wellbeing at the University of Wollongong, Australia; Dr Alessandro Svettini, Director of the Service for Early Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Recovery Gelmini in Bolzano (Italy); and Dr Kenneth Thompson, Public Service Psychiatrist and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh (US). 

Research into recovery at the IoP influences policy and practice locally, nationally and internationally. Projects have included looking at the way in which mental health services are organised, developing training for mental health professionals, and new interventions that support personal recovery and well-being. 

For further details about the conference or recovery research at the IoP at King’s, please visit the website