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Keynote Plenary Session Lectures

The ESSPD President chairs a round-table discussion on a specific topic with distinguished experts in the field.

Perspectives from positive psychology: determinants of well-being


The genetics of happiness and well-being
Meike Bartels (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Happiness and wellbeing have emerged as important study subjects within and across many fields of research. A major driving force behind this is the association with physical and mental health and its pivotal role in socioeconomic issues and economic development. With the increased interest in the importance of wellbeing it is critically important to understand and reveal sources of individual differences.

Prof Meike Bartels will present her work on happiness and wellbeing that describing the complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. She will present the current state of art within the field of behavioural and molecular genetic research into wellbeing, including twin-family studies and molecular genetic findings and the search for the exposome. She will furthermore explain the importance of her findings for individuals and the society at large.


Fostering well-being in patients with personality disorders
Mary Zanarini (Belmont, USA)

It is now known that symptomatic remission from borderline personality disorder is both common and relatively stable over time.  However, recovery, which involves concurrent remission and good social and vocational functioning, is less common and less stable.  Possible reasons for this lack of recovery will be discussed.  In addition, the concept of flourishing, which comes from positive psychology, will be defined and discussed.  Pathways to flourishing that are part of psychotherapy and pathways to flourishing that are part of everyday life will also be discussed.


A life worth living: lessons learned from working with suicide prevention in high risk clients


When It is Darkest: Making Sense of Suicide Risk
Rory O’Connor (Glasgow, UK)

In this presentation, I will draw from my book When It Is Darkest: Why People Die by Suicide and What We Can Do To Prevent It (Vermilion, 2021). My aim is to get to the heart of this most tragic of human outcomes, challenging myths and misunderstandings as well as bringing together the personal and the professional. Suicide and self-harm are major public health concerns with complex aetiologies which encompass a multifaceted array of risk and protective factors.  In this presentation, I will dispel some of the myths associated with suicide as well as describing the Integrated Motivational–Volitional (IMV) Model of Suicidal Behaviour (O’Connor & Kirtley, 2018). The IMV model outlines the pathways to the emergence of suicidal ideation and the transition from suicidal thoughts to acts of suicide.  This tripartite model maps the relationship between background factors and trigger events, and the development of suicidal ideation/intent through to suicidal behaviour. Crucially, the IMV model identifies clinical targets for treatment. As I have done in When It Is Darkest, I will present an overview of some of our clinical, experimental and intervention studies to illustrate how psychological, physiological and social factors increase suicide risk and what we all can do to tackle suicide.  I will also highlight the psychological evidence of what works to prevent suicidal behaviour. I will also present findings from the UK COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing Study, as well as the wider research literature, to describe the changes in mental health and wellbeing over the course of the pandemic. The wider clinical implications for the prevention of suicide will also be discussed.


Lessons learned from suicide prevention in clients with Borderline Personality Disorder
Lars Mehlum (Oslo, Norway)

People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) have high rates of suicide attempts (~50%) and suicide (3-10%) and account for a very large proportion of all patients who present to AE services with self-harming behaviours. Once considered a nearly impossible population to successfully treat, BPD clients and their treatment needs have fuelled development of much needed clinical knowledge as to how to treat suicidality directly and specifically. In this lecture we will highlight main lessons learned from research and clinical practice to prevent suicidal behaviour in clients with BPD.

Interviews with leading experts in the field of Borderline Disorder


Otto Kernberg

M.D., F.A.P.A., is Director of the Personality Disorders Institute at The New York Presbyterian Hospital, Westchester Division and Professor of Psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Dr. Kernberg is a Past-President of the International Psychoanalytic Association. He is also Training and Supervising Analyst of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.


Peter Fonagy

Head of the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at UCL; Chief Executive of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, London; Consultant to the Child and Family Programme at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine; and holds visiting professorships at Yale and Harvard Medical Schools.

Martin Bohus

Martin Bohus

Chair of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at Heidelberg University and is Scientific Director at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim since 2003.


Elsa Ronningstam

PhD, is a clinical psychologist in the Gunderson Outpatient Program and the Adult Outpatient Services at McLean Hospital, and an associate professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry (part-time) at Harvard Medical School.