Black History Month 2021

Throughout October 2021, Division of Psychiatry REED group will be posting video interviews and blogs celebrating Black History Month

Interview with Dr Stacy Moore

Journey to becoming an educational psychologist

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Interview with Hari Sewell

The challenge of social reform

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/gbE5B0I8

Interview with Tatiana Salisbury

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Interview with Charles Brown

Challenging racism in Psychoanalytics

I was interested in biology at school but did not achieve the grades that would give me a university p-lace. I was encouraged to join the labour market or the army. When I left school, it was to go to college as an apprentice engineer. The hours were long and the work taxing. When I developed an allergy to the coolants, I quit to become a politically active member of my community. I began campaigning for housing and education with some success. It was whilst volunteering with the probation services to reduce juvenile criminality that coincided with getting some local government funding to help set up a pathway to drug rehabilitation for members of the local community. I accessed the services and kicked my own drug habit and became inspired by the treatment approach. I then trained as a counsellor, addictions therapist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist.

Throughout the training experience I was the only person of colour in the training cohort and faced challenges around racism and racist behaviour during the training from organisations as well as from peers. Persistence and determination to complete the trainings and sometimes had to challenge the trainers and peers. There were some difficult conversations to have. It was a new experience to challenge racism in an articulated argument. I won enough battles to maintain my coherent self and continue with the training. 

My work has since expanded to working with other presentations besides addictive processes and I now work to challenge racism in the analytic professions and to encourage black, indigenous, and other people of colour (BIPOC) to train as psychoanalytic psychotherapists or counsellors where there is scarcity of people from black/African descent.

My own viewpoint on the field of analytic therapies have changed over time in that I feel able to challenge the persistent notion that certain people are unanalysable and question why these people are overrepresented in mental ill health by a majority white profession. This idea is starting to be discussed and challenged in the analytic therapies. 

Black therapists seem not to want to train in the field which is understandable and tend to work in the humanistic tradition. I think this trend occurs for specific reasons which can only be investigated psychoanalytically, that is by way of the mind.

I am most proud of my work in promoting anti-racism, I was awarded fellowship of United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).

Charles Brown, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist

Interview with Tofunmi Aworinde

Preseverance and learning from rejection

Tofunmi Aworinde
What inspired you to pursue your current job role/career? 

After completing my undergraduate degree, I worked in various care homes, where many residents often had a dementia diagnosis. My role as a care assistant raised questions about how to look after individuals with dementia and improve their quality of life. I became interested in learning more about dementia, how it impacts the lives of those affected by it, their progressions from mild to severe stages, and the treatments - pharmacological and non-pharmacological – and services available. I completed my MSc in Clinical Mental Health Sciences and elected for dementia modules to develop my knowledge. My final year dissertation explored the severity of dementia at death using routinely collected data from clinical dementia services. The experiences accumulated led to the development of my PhD in dementia at the Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London. My PhD focuses on understanding the requirements and testing the feasibility for using an assessment measure called the Integrated Palliative Outcome Scale for Dementia (IPOS-Dem) to improve communication and shared decision-making about care between people with dementia living at home, their family and care professionals. I split my time between my PhD research and working as a Research Assistant on the Empowering Better End of life Dementia Care (EMBED-Care). EMBED-Care is funded by the Economic Social Research Council and National Institute for Health Research and intends to develop a person-centred care intervention to improve end of life care for people with dementia across settings (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/gps.5251).

What challenges did you face when aspiring to reach your job/career? 

I think, like most people, job application rejections after interviews were difficult as rejection was sometimes due to lack of experience, but this is part of the process of job applications. I also had uncertainties regarding which career path I wanted to follow, i.e., research or clinical.

How did you overcome these challenges? 

During my MSc, I sought to gain experience and skills in my field of interest by undertaking a volunteer role at a research and development department in an NHS Trust. This role led to a job offer that gave me the additional experience I needed to become more competitive (or attractive to employers) on the job market. I believe that perseverance and resiliency are essential when considering a career in academia, and an understanding that rejection is part of the process. Even with the right experience, some applications will not be successful for various reasons, such as lack of fit with the organisations you are considering. If you’re interested in a particular area of work or research, you must persevere and learn from previous experience of applications about what have or have not worked. Asking for feedback for applications that have not been successful is usually a good idea and a way to learn what to avoid or include in future ones. Having helpful and supportive supervisors or good mentors as I did, who can create/provide the opportunities to gain experiences, knowledge and skills, such as permitting attendance to conferences and contribution to publication are all important avenues to make you more marketable.

What change do you hope to achieve with your work? 

We know that the number of people living is increasing and will continue to do so, as is the number of people dying with it. As dementia progresses, the ability to communicate becomes increasingly difficult for some, and their reliance on family for support and decision making becomes greater. It is crucial that the person with dementia continues to receive the care and treatment that they need. Shared decision-making is an integral part of ensuring that the care provided coincides with the need and wishes of the individual with dementia. I hope my work will improve shared decision-making between people with dementia living at home, their family carers and healthcare professionals, and improve care outcomes.

How do you think your field of work has changed your views on mental health? 

Working within a palliative care department has highlighted the significance that mental health has throughout the life course. Quality of life, ageing well and the notion of ‘good death’ are linked to mental health.

Can you tell us about a piece of work you are most proud of? 

I thoroughly enjoyed my MSc dissertation as it is an important topic that contributes to the evidence base for dementia care. It was the first piece of research to explore demographic and clinical predictors of dementia severity. The research provides information for the public who fear dying with severe dementia, particularly people with early-stage dementia. However, dying with severe dementia occurred less often than expected, which may be comforting to some. We had discussions on Twitter and at conferences with clinicians and the public interested in the paper's results. Clinicians found the results useful and told us that they used or planned to use it in their dementia services when discussing with people with dementia and their families. This work is now published in BMC Psychiatry: https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-018-1930-5

Interview with Mekeda X Logan

Research Assistant and Head of UCL Division of Psychaitry BHM Committee

What inspired you to pursue your current job role/career? 

I have always been passionate about Psychology and innovative ways to develop treatment for individuals with mental health disorders. Initially, I never imagined to be working in the research field, I have always been interested in the clinical aspect of Psychology and mental health and have the hopes of becoming a clinical psychologist focusing on common mental health disorders within the ethnic minority communities. Whilst job hunting for an assistant psychologist role, I came across a research assistant post looking into innovative treatment interventions for individuals with depression in primary care settings and I thought “this is perfect!” I thought that this role would not only enhance my research skills, but it would also allow me to have an insight into the way clinicians think when creating interventions for individuals with common mental health disorders (CMD). Taking part in psychiatric research also allows me to have an impact in the psychiatric field and gives me the pleasure to know that I am helping others not only now, but also in the future. Another reason I wanted to pursue my job role and future career is because there is a lack of black representation within the mental health field, I believe that more black individuals should uptake careers in this field to share their different perspectives based on our own culture, race, and beliefs, and to also create more cultural competency within the psychiatric field.

What challenges did you face when aspiring to reach your job/career?

Whilst climbing the career ladder to gain valuable experience to get into a clinical doctorate in psychology, the main challenge I faced was rejection. I applied for numerous roles within the mental health field- I applied for so many assistant psychologist posts that I lost count! The constant rejections gave me some sense self-doubt and concern around how I am going to reach the next stage in my career development.

How did you overcome these challenges? 

I had a lot of perseverance and had to trust and believe in myself (which I believe is the most powerful tool when trying to reach your desired job/career!), I also have a great support network that kept pushing me forward and cheering me on. As well as developing self-belief and having great support, I made sure that I continued to work on my application techniques and interview skills; I read up continuously on how to be a competitive candidate and watched videos on interview skills for the job role I wanted.

What change do you hope to bring to the field of mental health with your work? 

I hope to bring a change of perspective on mental health, I believe it is crucial to have people of different genders, race, cultures, and abilities to work within the mental health field to shed light on how different individuals approach the topic of mental health. I also hope to bring more awareness to mental health research within the black community, focusing on depression outcomes for black individuals and the mental health of black women which is significantly under researched here in the UK.

How do you think your field of work has changed your views on mental health? 

I have always been passionate about mental health; I have vast experience of working with adolescents with mental health. Working in my current research assistant post on two clinical psychiatric trials has enabled me to work with adults with CMD, I have always known that everyone can experience the same mental health disorder in a unique way and respond to treatment differently. Working with GPs within primary care has also helped me to have an insight on how GPs assess and manage their patients that approach them with mental health challenges, there is an incredible amount of pressure not only on the individuals experiencing mental health but also on clinicians; I hope with the research I am doing alongside my colleagues and principal investigator; we can make a change to the intervention individuals within primary care can access.

Can you tell us about a piece of work you are most proud of? 

Prior to this job role, I had minimal research experience, I studied research skills whilst pursuing my Psychology undergraduate degree, completed a dissertation, did a research internship, and collected some qualitative data whilst working in a CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) inpatient unit. I have not yet published my own research, but this is something I am working towards! I am immensely proud to say that my current research post is something I am proud of, not only am I enhancing my research skills and increasing my understanding of mental health, but I am also working on two clinical trials that, if proven effective, will be rolled out to the NHS (National Health Service) as treatment interventions. I feel proud to know that I am making a positive impact on people’s lives and the mental health field. The Black History Month Interview Series is also another great project I am proud of, this is the first time the UCL (University College London) Division of Psychiatry has highlighted black psychiatrists, psychologists, academics, and researchers work in the light of celebrating Black History Month. I hope that this has been a great inspiration to all who have across our content and has given you hope to continue to reach your job role/career in the field of mental health!