Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations BMJ Confidential

Geraldine Strathdee: Cooking on gas

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 20 January 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:h7017


Geraldine Strathdee is a consultant psychiatrist at Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and national clinical director for mental health at NHS England. She’s refreshingly frank: “There’s an enormous amount spent on mental health—the only problem is, it’s spent on dealing with the adverse consequences of not having given access early to effective interventions or having a proper prevention programme,” she told a King’s Fund conference in 2015. She believes that people can be coached into becoming literate about their own mental health and that early intervention will improve self management and avoid lifelong bad outcomes for many.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a multilingual diplomat, negotiating peace and collaboration: the ambition of a child growing up in a community with civil unrest and exclusions [Northern Ireland]. I’ve achieved my ambition, if not quite in the way I’d envisaged.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My patients and my first mentor. I went to medical school planning to be a GP, but I met people with psychoses. I was humbled by their courage, creativity, strength, and humour despite the double whammy of a challenging illness and stigma. I’d found my lifelong vocation. My first mentor, the Belfast psychiatrist Alex Lyons, was already closing big institutions and establishing therapeutic day centres, primary care clinics, and peer support groups in the 1960s. His ability to put his values into …

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