I’m spending a week in Prague, Czech Republic, for the 35th International Congress on Law and Mental Health, sponsored and organized by the International Academy of Law and Mental Health (IALMH). Among other things, today I facilitated a session to launch the formation of the new International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence (more on that in my next post), and tomorrow I’m presenting a short paper on workplace bullying, mobbing, and incivility in academe as part of a panel discussion on higher education.
The IALMH’s biennial Congress is a global event, with presenters and attendees from around the world participating in dozens of panel discussions running each day for a full week. Law professors, lawyers, and judges join psychologists, psychiatrists, and those from other professional and academic disciplines to discuss important issues of law and mental health. This has become an extraordinary educational conference experience for me, full of ideas, research, and insights that fuel my understanding of the linkages between law and psychology. It also has served as a welcomed venue to share some of my work with valued colleague.
Our host institution is Charles University in Prague, one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished universities. This year’s Congress opened on Sunday with a ceremony in the Great Hall of Carolinum, a significant building in the nation’s history that dates back to the 14th century. One of my therapeutic jurisprudence colleagues, Australian magistrate judge Pauline Spencer, received a major award at this ceremony, and I’ll have more to say about her work very soon.
Believe it or not, a lot of learning occurs at this conference. Each conference day includes four 2-hour blocks of panel discussions. Most of us attend at least 2 or 3 per day, in addition to doing our own presentations and attending assorted meetings. To help reduce the temptation to lapse into truancy, the IALMH builds into the schedule several cultural and sightseeing events. This evening’s entertainment was a lovely concert by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.
One of the most validating aspects of this gathering is the widely shared understanding that human emotions should matter a lot in the making and administration of law and public policy. We’re not all nodding our heads in agreement on everything said here, but at least we start with a consensus that psychology and mental health should play prime roles in shaping our laws and legal systems. Our challenge is to persuade more of our peers in the legal profession and in policymaking positions to see things similarly.