Poaching, prisons, and trauma-informed care

Ella Rhodes reports on the latest British Psychological Society award winners.

The 2021 BPS Professional Practice Board award winners have been announced. This diverse set of researchers and practitioners have been involved in dementia care, working with prisoners in Northern Ireland, women at Rampton Hospital and developing anti-poaching operations in Africa. 

The winner of the board’s Lifetime Achievement Award is Professor of Psychology, Ageing and Dementia Care, Dr Esme Moniz-Cook (University of Hull) – who has worked across Hull with people with dementia, their families and communities. She also pioneered the establishment of Memory Clinics that have delivered timely diagnosis and support to people with dementia and their families.

Moniz-Cook said that, after working with groups of people with dementia at a day hospital in the late 80s, she was struck by the effects of the double stigma of age and dementia. ‘This fuelled deeply held internalised beliefs and fears. Engaging positively with people with dementia I learned much about their rich personal lives and assets… through developing the Hull Memory Clinic in collaboration with GPs and primary care, we were able to counteract stigma, manage fear and support families.’

Moniz-Cook’s research has transformed thinking about ‘challenging behaviour’ in dementia and more recently she has moved to focus on translating evidence-based knowledge into practice and mentoring practitioners, applied researchers and clinical dementia networks both locally and internationally. ‘The double effects of ageism and stigma continue to undermine timely support in dementia care, despite our knowledge on what psychosocial care works for many people with dementia and their supporters. 

‘This situation has worsened since the Covid pandemic where psychological support appears to have been replaced by antipsychotic drugs which previously were a “last resort” treatment in dementia care.’ 

Forensic Psychologist Professor Jackie Bates-Gaston has won the award for Distinguished Contribution to Practice. She worked as the Northern Ireland Prison Service’s Chief Psychologist for 24 years, after working as Senior Occupational Psychologist in the Department of Manpower, Senior Lecturer in Applied Psychology at the University of Ulster, Honorary Professor of Applied Psychology at Herriot Watt University, Edinburgh. 

Bates-Gaston has researched and published in a wide range of areas including women’s work performance across their lifespan, repetitive strain injury in female factory workers, prison officer stress and also traumatic brain injury in younger offenders. Her last project in the Northern Ireland Prison Service led to a ministerial call for the review of mental health needs and services for prison staff. ‘I found that working as a psychologist in every post was so fascinating, challenging and rewarding that I just kept expanding my curiosity and pushing my knowledge boundaries.’ 

The 2021 winners of the Innovation in Practice Award are the psychology team at the National High Secure Healthcare Service for Women (NHSHSW) at Rampton Hospital, jointly led by Yasmin Siddall (Consultant Forensic Psychologist) and Dr Jessica Lewis (Consultant Clinical Psychologist). Over the past two years the team, which also includes forensic psychologists Rachel Beryl, Laura Longdon and Simone Beason, and Assistant Psychologists James Seagrief and Kirstie Mackay, have been implementing the Trauma Informed Care Pathway (TICP) throughout their service. 

Their changes took into account some key recommendations about women’s mental health which emphasised principles including co-production, engaging in outreach and holistic working. Their work focuses on patient needs first and seeks to embed TICP in everything provided within the service. 

The team said they were delighted and honoured to receive the award. ‘We are grateful to all the patients and our colleagues in the NHSHSW and sincerely thankful they have embraced the restructuring of our treatment pathway to a trauma-informed care pathway so enthusiastically.’ 

Experience Psychology Specialist at the Ministry of Defence, Giselle Dudley, has won the 2021 Innovation in Practice Award. Dudley has supported the UK Ministry of Defence by designing and implementing anti-poaching operations across Africa. 

Through rigorous and informed analysis of the evidence Dudley was able to demonstrate significant gaps in the success of the current anti-poaching activities and identify solutions to bridge these gaps. This has been so successful it resulted in further funding from DEFRA to continue the British Army’s efforts to reduce illegal poaching and has given them scope to move their efforts to other parts of the globe. ‘This task was given to me last year to identify how we can engage and develop relationships with partner nations. I explored the complexity of poaching, the types and cultural implications relating to supply and demand, which opened my eyes to the challenges faced by nations in tackling this problem.

‘There is so much yet to achieve in this area, as there is no single solution or problem for that matter. We need to understand the relative implications for all those involved from the poacher, their families and the sources of demand.’ 

Award for outstanding doctoral research

A clinical psychologist and researcher who explores anxiety disorders in children and young people has won the 2021 BPS award for Outstanding Doctoral Research. During his PhD Dr Pete Lawrence (University of Southampton) used quantitative and qualitative approaches to look at the risk of developing anxiety disorders, ways to prevent them, and how to bring down barriers in accessing support.

Lawrence was nominated for two of his PhD papers in particular – a meta-analysis of the risk that parental anxiety disorders have on children also potentially developing these disorders and a longitudinal study exploring whether certain anxiety disorder risk factors in infancy predict social anxiety disorder. These papers have fed directly into two current research trials to prevent anxiety disorders in children at risk (‘MY-CATS’ and ‘Parenting with Anxiety’), on which he is a funded co-investigator. 

Lawrence said he found a passion for understanding children’s psychological development and mental health in the face of adversity as an undergraduate student. ‘I read Professor Emmy Werner’s reports from the Kauai longitudinal study – particularly, what characterised children who had shown resilience in the face of adversity. Consequently, I have focused my clinical work and research within young people’s mental health in the face of adversity – in particular, the intergenerational transmission of risk of common mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders and depression.’

Lawrence has been recognised for his research before: at the University of Reading, where he completed his PhD, he received the 2019 Early Career Researcher Output of the Year and PhD Student of the Year awards in the Division of Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience, first prize in the Springer Nature/Association of British Turkish Academics National Doctoral Researcher Awards in the social science category, and the University of Southampton Dean’s Prize for Outstanding Early Career Research in the Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences. 

As a scientist, Lawrence said he was excited by the challenge of improving clinical prevention programmes by improving our understanding of how risk is transmitted, while as a clinician, he was excited by the opportunities to prevent children developing mental health problems offered by accessible, online prevention programmes for parents with common mental health problems. ‘As a parent with lived experience of depression, I’m pleased to work at a time when I can see a growing recognition of the value in research placed on people’s lived experiences of mental ill health shown through, for example, major funding bodies’ requirements for Public and Patient Involvement at all stages of research projects.’ 

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