This year, one of our ExpertMHers, Kirsty from UK, attended the European Health Forum Gastein first ever Hackathon, as well as attending various panels and presentations across the conference, looking to ensure mental health, where needed was considered in whatever projects were being produced.
The objective is to bring together 35 participants from different backgrounds from all over Europe to work in teams on an innovative solution to a neat, well-defined problem within 36 hours. This years issue was on ‘How to prevent injuries/death cause by alcohol misuse in the young population?’ Kirsty has written a blog of her experiences of this event below…
At the beginning of October, I hopped on the plane for the first time in ten years to attend the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) in the city of Salzburg, Austria. My anxiety was particularly heightened travelling to the airport and flying alone. The last time I was in an airport I was 14 years old with my auntie, uncle and cousin. Landing in Vienna, my anxiety increased again. I had 40 minutes to get through security and run through the airport for my connecting flight to Salzburg.
Driving through Bad Hofgastein, we finally arrived in Gastein, the home to the 2018 European Health Forum. For the first time ever, the European Health Forum was having its first hackathon. It was also my first time attending the forum which I was lucky enough to be awarded a fully funded scholarship to represent Euro Youth Mental Health. 35 participants across Europe were selected, divided into seven teams.
The hackathon began on Tuesday evening and we were informed of our challenge. Firstly, this was really happening. I was in Austria and about to compete in a 36 hour hackathon. Secondly, it is not often that alcohol misuse is seen as a health issue and personally I would class it more related to mental health. However, I am glad that health was perceived in a broader sense. As we are aware, physical and mental health currently do not sit under the same umbrella within society. To some extent, they are perceived as separate entities.
It was during the 36 hours that myself and my team members bonded and got to identify our different areas of knowledge and expertise. From data scientists, health ecologists to public health professionals to working and living in different healthcare systems within Europe. Despite the stress, constantly changing decisions and a lack of sleep, it was all part of an experience that definitely ‘challenged’ us all. My team became like my family and we spent the last two days attending conference workshops and attending dinner parties together. I miss them dearly.
This year’s conference focused on ‘Bad Political Choices for Agenda 2030’. There were conference sessions such as ‘A new era for Alzheimer’s, blockchain for dummies and man vs machine – an Oxford-style debate’ that I was unable to attend due to participating in the hackathon. However, I found myself reading about blockchain and the numerous journals that I gathered in my hotel room. On my last morning, I attended the “Sustainable strategies for addressing health inequalities” session. Speakers included Louise Boyle (EHFG Programme Advisor), Sir Michael Marmot (Director at the Institute of Health Inequality, University College London) and Yvonne Doyle (Advisor to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan). It was this session that I finally heard a focus on mental health with discussions around crime, learned helplessness to resilience in teenagers and the development within 0-2-year-old’s. I also plucked up the courage to introduce myself to Yvonne Doyle, explaining the numerous projects and campaigns that I am apart of in fighting for a better mental health system for children and young people.
I was sad to leave Gastein. Austria is a beautiful place. At times I was feeling homesick, immersing myself in a culture, my first time abroad in ten years. I hope to visit again and I will be applying to the European Health Forum 2019.
See more about the European Health Forum Gastein Forum here – https://www.ehfg.org