The first Semmelweis Health Day, a series of free, interactive events in the topics of public health organized by Semmelweis University, which is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, was held to great success. More than 700 people registered to the various programs of Mental Health Day, and a talk held by mental health expert Father Feri Pál on burnout was followed by close to 500 people in two auditoriums. Upwards of 100 university staff and students took part in the organization of the event as presenters or volunteers.

Mental Health Day, the first of the Semmelweis Health Days that will be organized in this special 250th anniversary year of the university, offered a range of interesting presentations, demonstrations, as well as health screening for every member of the family. During the full-day interactive event held in the university’s Basic Medical Science Center (EOK) in Tűzoltó utca, visitors could choose from 70 presentations and workshops on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Dr. János Réthelyi, the director of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, and one of the event’s organizers, said that they prepared programs aimed at people from all age groups throughout the day. “We wanted to present every segment of mental health. In addition to the numerous exciting presentations and lectures, visitors could choose from eight different stands where they could learn about topics such as psychotherapy, art therapy, memory loss, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Other areas discussed included mental illness, the importance of sleep, sexual psychology, the link between physical and mental health, psychotherapies, as well as animal assisted and pharmaceutical therapies. We primarily wanted to target people who want to learn more about ways to maintain mental health and the state and results of current research. In addition, of course we also offered programs for those living with mental health, as well as their relatives,” he said.

At the event, visitors could try out several techniques to develop self-knowledge and support mental health, join personality development, parent or relative groups and learn about art therapy and stress management methods.

Six organizational units of the university – the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, the Department of Behavioral Sciences, the 1st Department of Pediatrics, the Institute of Mental Health, the Department of Clinical Psychology and the Semmelweis Health Development Center – took part in the organization of the event, as well as more than 100 volunteer university staff and students. Colleagues at the 1st Department of Pediatrics used TED talks to present to the public what we can do help the spiritual health and development of our children. Thanks to the Semmelweis Health Development Center, visitors had an opportunity to take part in health screenings from the morning until the afternoon, and following a short body composition analysis, get some advice on a healthy diet and lifestyle. Also present at the event was the Instructor’s Self-Active Group, as well as two public benefit organizations, the Ébredések (Awakenings) Foundation and the Moravcsik Foundation.

Thanks to the marketing activity of the Directorate of Communication and Event Management, more than 130 short program teasers, online and print articles, and radio and television news reports appeared in the media, in the estimated combined value of more than HUF 33 million.

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The most popular star guests of the event were the therapy dogs working at both the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and the Department of Behavioral Sciences: Zsebi, the three-year-old spaniel, as well as Labradors Aldo and Nelson, whom visitors could get to know during the course of small-group, experience-based workshops on animal-assisted therapy. The program drawing the most guests was the talk held by Ferenc Pál, the well-known Catholic priest and mental health expert, who discussed burnout in our private and work lives. His presentation was followed by more than 500 people in two auditoriums.

Dr. János Réthelyi noted that based on the responses from university staff as well as visitors, the event was a great success. The clear conclusion can be drawn that there is a public need for events of this type. “In today’s world, where we are bombarded with a wealth of information online, it is especially important to have reliable forums where everyday people can get answers to their questions from credible professionals. Here at Semmelweis University we have the know-how, a team that has experience in education and in holding presentations, as well as the infrastructure to perform educational and prevention activities from time to time for the public,” said the director.

The professional events were accompanied by musical performances and concerts throughout the day, with the performers being two medical students, Regina Molnár and Félix Takács, as well as Dr. Kata Kiss, a resident pediatrician.

The university’s rector also visited the event on Saturday. Dr. Béla Merkely welcomed the many people attending the program prior to the talk held by Father Feri Pál, and expressed his gratitude to the university staff for all the hard work they put into organizing the event. Dr. Merkely reminded the audience that the Semmelweis Health Days, which will include ten events through next June, are part of the special program series organized on the occasion of the university’s 250th anniversary. The next event in the series, the Health Sciences in Daily Life program organized by the Faculty of Health Sciences, will take place on October 4. Registration for the event, which will include close to 50 different presentations and interactive workshops, starts on Monday on the university’s website.

For more photos from the event, see our article in Hungarian.

Zsófia Haszon-Nagy
Translation: Tamás Deme
Photo: Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University