A Consumer's Diary - The Asian Clubhouse Conference
By Bob Scholer
During the week of November 15-20, 2004, 300 people from Hong Kong, China, Japan, Australia, Hawaii and the mainland United States gathered in Hong Kong for the first Asian Clubhouse Conference. Phoenix Clubhouse was the host for the conference. Fountain House was well presented. Kenn Dudek, the Executive Director, John McConnell and Lisa Tai joined Dr. Ralph Aquila, Tom Malamud, and myself to make presentations and attend various workshops. Joel Corcoran and Ralph Bilby of the International Center for Clubhouse Development organized the conference. It is interesting to note that Lisa Tai was born in Hong Kong.
The non-stop flight from Newark International Airport to Hong Kong took us over the North Pole and lasted sixteen hours. Most people arrived in Hong Kong by Tuesday, November 16th and the following evening there was a reception at the Hong Kong Yacht Club with hors díoeuvres and refreshments. It was nice to see old friends and make new acquaintances. Afterwards, the local representative of Eli Lilly took Dr. Aquila, Tom, his wife Ciri and myself to a delicious Chinese feast. The highlight of the meal was a whole fish in sweet and sour sauce.
The next morning, the conference started at the Medical College. There was an opening plenary session at which Dr. Aquila was the first speaker. He made a presentation about the new atypical antipsychotic medications and their beneficial effects. He also brought up the concept of the rehabilitation alliance, which was the subject of the first workshop. I will present more on that a little later. A psychiatrist from mainland China spoke next about the increased interest in the epidemiology of mental illness, schizophrenia in particular. Treatment in China is improving and hopefully someday they will have clubhouse programs. A member of the Phoenix Clubhouse spoke about her recovery and how the clubhouse and its transitional employment program are helping her.
During the first workshop, Dr. Aquila, Tom Malamud and myself made a presentation about the rehabilitation alliance that we practice together. The three of us meet together once every four weeks. Dr. Aquila is my psychopharmacologist and Tom is my counselor. The benefit to the doctor and myself is that we get Tomís added input at each session. A rehabilitation alliance can consist of any group of people meeting together at the behest of the consumer. My alliance is helping me continue on my full-time job as a peer advocate. I had never before held a job for a whole year, and now I have been working for almost three years. Zyprexa has enabled me to accomplish this. It has helped me to curtail my obsessive thoughts, and begin to reach my potential.
During our spare time, groups of three and four of us went sightseeing and shopping. We rode on the subway to Kowloon Island and the Central district of Hong Kong. All of the subway stations have a partition between the platform and the tracks. The main harbor of Hong Kong is circular and is surrounded by hills and hundreds of tall commercial buildings and apartment houses. The parks of Hong Kong also have numerous buildings around them. The streets are crowded and there are numerous restaurants with outstanding Chinese food.
The conference continued on Friday with many workshops and concluded on Saturday with a plenary session. Kenn Dudek gave a terrific speech about the history of Fountain House, and John McConnell was the final speaker. He gave a moving description of his recovery, employment and social studies.
On Saturday and Sunday, most of us took return flights home. Our return flight to New York took us over Japan, Alaska and finally Canada. One of our group members took an extended vacation in Shanghai. Everyone had a wonderful time at the conference, and we look forward to the 13th International Clubhouse Seminar in Finland next June.
Bob Scholer, a consumer and peer advocate, was part of the U.S. delegation from Fountain House.