About

Romão de Sousa Foundation, in collaboration with CRC-W – Católica Research Centre for Psychological, Family and Social Wellbeing, is delighted to present the Fourth International Mental Health Meeting of Romão de Sousa Foundation on the 5th and 6th of November 2021 and Associated Events:

The theme of the Meeting is “From Symptoms to Stories: epistemological revolution(s) in mental health care”


Emotional pain and disturbance have been described differently across time and place – from century to century and between East and West. The ‘era of the unconscious’ (with Freud and the pioneers of psychoanalysis) was dethroned by the ‘era of the brain’ (at the end of the 20th century). The 21st century is showing that brain and mind and, more importantly, body and context, cannot be separated or thought of as single causes towards an effect (‘illness’).

The expression of “symptoms” raises different reactions according to culture, region, social environment and status quo, ranging from illumination to illness, handicap, pathology, deficit, madness, premonition, eccentricity, difference, and many others. Symptoms have been interpreted as embodied manifestations of distress, meaningful communication or, simply, as a result of brain dysfunction.

Diagnostic standardisation and pseudo-scientific terminology have expanded exponentially, increasing the power and influence of pharmaceutical and insurance companies, but restricting understanding, curiosity and relationships with patients and families. User movements, recent research and recognition of the importance of relational practice is urging us towards a more humanized and collaborative clinical way of working.

How are patients’ voices heard in the current mental health system? What are the roles of families and the social network in the treatment process? Is diagnostic labelling facilitating recovery or stopping conversations? Is the rush for shutting down or merely suppressing symptoms an intelligent and effective approach?

What is the ontology and epistemology of mental distress: how do we know what it is and and how do we know that? What are the best approaches to research and clinical practice? How should services interact with each other? How do we best engage patients, families, services and social networks in dialogical and democratic practice?

In this meeting we explore stories, par excellence, as a way of connecting people, can give meaning to disturbance and help disentangle knots of pain and discomfort. In other words, stories, polyphony, and dialogue can be presented as ways to nurture, listen and give voice to symptoms. This can transform isolation and pain into communication, agency and autonomy.

Quoting the Norwegian Psychiatrist Tom Andersen, “there are always emotions in words, other words in words, sometimes sound and music, sometimes whole stories, sometimes whole lives”.

Come for one week of relational and dialogical mental health events and make a difference. Submit your work and be among other professionals who want to transform these narratives!

Submit your work and join the debate!

João G. Pereira
Rex Haigh