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International Conference EASPD and SOUS
Under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk
24 in 25 May 2012, Ljubljana, Slovenia




The international conference is organised by the Association of Slovenian Training Organisations for Persons with Special Needs - SOUS in collaboration with the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities, EASPD, which brings together around 9000 service providers across Europe. EASPD's main objective, based on the UN convention on disability rights, is to promote equal opportunities by ensuring an effective and quality system of service provision. As to solving future challenges, it believes in the interdependence and partnership of service users, providers and authorities at all levels.

The conference theme of »dual diagnosis«, which means a mental development disorder combined with mental health problems, was motivated by an increasing awareness of such problems in people with special needs and, as a result, a growing need to provide additional information to these people as well as the people close to them and around them. In the past, it was generally believed that these people have no mental health problems. However, foreign studies made in recent years have shown that individuals in this target group face an even greater risk of psychological problems than the population with no disabilities. All this applies to the more developed European countries, the USA and Australia, while Slovenia is just making a start in this field.

For this reason the conference will introduce various relevant aspects and determining factors, presented by recognized European experts, researches in the field, practitioners at the applied level and some Slovenian professionals.

The primary aim of the conference is to improve knowledge about mental health of all those involved in the lives of people with special needs – the staff, family, professionals and the public, to exchange good practices and views and to build new links at the European and personal level.

Dual diagnosis is a complicated and complex condition that needs special attention, not only as regards the person treated but also in terms of giving support to the family and staff. Only if the latter are provided with sufficient knowledge and support can they properly maintain their own mental health and well-being and, then only, provide adequate care to the person in their charge. The awareness of society at large should also be raised.

We find courage and optimism in the fact that, step by step, such knowledge is spreading and that the number of studies is increasing, as is the number of research and applied questions.

Ultimately we must keep in mind that all this should have a single aim and purpose: the good health and high quality of life of people with special needs.