Helen Killaspy

Helen Killaspy

Professor Killaspy is a clinical academic working in the field of rehabilitation psychiatry. She is Joint Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Applied Clinical Research within the Division of Psychiatry at UCL. Her research has provided much needed evidence for the effectiveness of specialist services for people with particularly complex mental health problems and she has played a key role in ensuring this evidence is included in policy to support ongoing investment in mental health rehabilitation services in the UK and abroad. Her national leadership roles include: Chair of the Rehabilitation Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2008-2012), National Professional Adviser on Mental Health Rehabilitation Services to the Care Quality Commission (2015-2020), and Topic Adviser for the first NICE Guideline on mental health rehabilitation (NG181, published August 2020).

I was extremely lucky to have Michael King as my Head of Department when I was starting out as a junior researcher, back at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School, before it joined with UCL. Michael is a fantastic advocate for the LGB community and he created a culture of safety and openness, so there was never an issue about it feeling uncomfortable to be ‘out’ as a lesbian at work. It also led to some very useful collaborations - in fact the systematic review we conducted on the mental health of LGB people over 10 years ago is still my most cited paper. Being able to be open about who you are amongst your colleagues is not something most people have to think about, but for people from sexual minorities, it can feel like something that has to be navigated carefully and it is an unnecessary burden to have to do so. That’s why visible signs of support are so important - clear statements on websites and EDI policies are an important aspect of this, but having visible role models makes it even clearer that this is a good place for LGB people to work. I don’t feel that my sexual orientation has impacted negatively on my career at all but I am sure that that is because I had the good fortune to work somewhere where it was more of an asset than an issue and that, in my view, is how we should view all aspects of diversity.

I am really pleased at how far we have progressed our EDI work in the Division of Psychiatry - a huge amount of time and effort by many people has been invested over the years that has really helped to address at least some of the impediments to career progression that women and people from minority groups face in our academic world. Of course there is more to do and we all have to guard against complacency - it is very easy for good cultures to revert to something less healthy - so initiatives like Athena SWAN are going to be needed for the foreseeable future to ensure that everyone remains alert to EDI issues, and nobody is marginalised because of their ‘difference’.