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2023, June 9th, Cardiff University, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue,

SKELLERN LECTURE, Dr Anne Aiyegbusi  -  Mental Health Care and the Enduring Challenge of Racial Trauma

Introduced by Gary Winship

Dr Anne Aiyegbusi is a Registered Mental Health Nurse, Forensic Psychotherapist and Group Analyst. Anne worked full time in NHS forensic services for 30 years and this included Consultant Nurse roles in the Women’s Services of two high secure hospitals.

Earlier in her career she was the Clinical Nurse Manager at the Caswell Clinic in Bridgend and was amongst the team who set up the first purpose built forensic unit in Wales. She completed her PhD at Middlesex University with psychoanalytic support from the Tavistock Clinic. Her thesis focused on therapeutic relationships with people with diagnoses of personality disorder. Anne is currently Principal Psychotherapist and Group Analyst at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, also Director, Consultant Nurse and Psychotherapist at Psychological Approaches CIC where the focus of her work is providing training and consultancy to staff groups in forensic, offender care and complex needs services. She is also the senior supervisor for the leads in the central Offender PD team for HMP & Probation Service Health & Care partnerships. Finally, Anne also sits on the Board of Trustees at the Institute of Group Analysis, is the member for anti-discrimination and intersectionality and also a Board member and joint chair of the training committee for the Forensic Psychotherapy Society.


It is impressive that alongside all of the contributions Anne has made to clinical, teaching and strategic developments in our field, she has also published numerous papers, chapters and books. Her lecture this evening is on topic of a book she is completing about forensic psychotherapy and racial trauma. She is a seasoned speaker at conferences, both in the UK and abroad, and she delivered the 11th Annual Maxwell Jones Memorial Lecture in 2007 at the Royal Society of Medicine.  She is enormously esteemed and I might add, loved, by colleagues. Gwen Adshead heard that Anne was delivering the Skellern lecture and told me, “Anne is a great teacher from whom I have learned so much. I think she was one of the very first people I met who really understood the plight of the patients in high secure hospitals; and when I have a tough job to do thinking about complex organisations, I ask for Anne; and she never fails me. What a great colleague and teacher.”  And likewise, our MHN colleague Chris Scanlon sent this message, “Ann is intelligent, conscientious, tireless, with a huge capacity ‘to think’ about what many find unthinkable, to bear what many find unbearable, and love those that many find unlovable - and to do so with dignity, and with ‘kindness’. A wonderful colleague, and great friend with whom I stand in solidarity!”. Jen French, who has worked closely with Anne for many years said, “From the moment I met Anne at the Caswell Clinic she has been my hero and inspiration.  Its because of her that I’ve succeeded.  I love her and I can’t ever thank her enough”.   


Personally, I’ve know Anne for probably more than 25 years now. I recall we first met when we were competitively shortlisted for a consultant nurse post at Broadmoor, and we had a day of activities with all the candidates spending time together, a group interview of sorts. Anne won and was appointed, and quite rightly so. I saw then that Anne was commanding and gentle in requisite measures, resourceful and incisive, and  an altogether beautifully compelling force of MHN nature. I am delighted and honoured to introduce you this evening Anne, as the 2023 Skellern Memorial Lecturer.

Lecture Synopsis: Many advances in mental health care have occurred over the past 60 years with mental health nurses often at the forefront of developments. Sadly, the picture of progress remains blighted by long-standing examples of racial inequity. These patterns are well recognized and when described, a sense of regret is often conveyed. Acknowledgement about their persistence may be accompanied by recommendations aiming to address them. This happened with the 2018 review of the Mental Health Act, highlighting how well-meaning efforts have produced painfully little difference. The following circumstances are as evident for Black people today as when formal monitoring began. Disproportionately high are, criminalization, diagnoses of schizophrenia and other psychoses, treatment involving high-dose psychotropic medication, compulsory treatment and secure detention, restraint, use of force and deaths in custody when mentally distressed. Less access to psychological therapies is part of the picture. Witnessing the human experience behind this narrative can be distressing, for example in the recent strip-searching of Child Q. Thus, I suggest the list of surface criteria might offer a preferred professional method of representing ‘the problem’, inadvertently functioning to keep emotional distance from the reality of transgenerational racial trauma. I offer a manageable way of capturing the enormity while doing justice to underlying human experience. This involves employing a trauma informed approach which includes psychosocial conceptualizations, recognizing how systemic factors can and do impact health. Notions of individual illness may be reframed as expressions of disturbance which is rooted in social context. Racial trauma being a case in point. I will consider how this is masked and perpetuated within the aforementioned persisting picture. Importantly, I will explain the benefits of integrating models of racial trauma into the theory and practice of mental health nursing via effective training and reflective practice.


Introduced by Kevin Gournay

Mary is Professor of Mental Health Nursing/Director Centre for Public Engagement.  Registered mental health nurse (RMN) and general nurse (RGN), a registered nurse tutor and behaviour therapist. (JBCN 650). I hold a B.Ed. (Hons) degree and PhD. Formerly, worked at University of Ulster, Royal College of Nursing, Research Institute, Oxford; South West London and St. George's Mental Health NHS Trust and Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals. Throughout her career she has held a number of clinical, managerial and academic positions including coordinator of the Northern Ireland Centre for Health Informatics. She is involved in a number of research projects locally and internationally.

She is a fellow of both the Royal Society of Medicine and the European Academy of Nurse Scientists, and an expert panel member of HORATIO, the European Association for Psychiatric Nurses, and a member of the Institute of Leadership and Management. Mary has a well-established record of patient and public involvement (PPI) in education and research dating back to the 1980s. Outcomes of her work with respect to PPI in both these areas have had impact nationally and internationally. Integral to this work has been the co-production and delivery of education programmes, as well as PPI at all stages of the research process. PPI is one of her key research interests.

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Guests were welcomed by Nicola Evans & Alicia Stringfellow. Trudi Peterson received a special award for her performance poetry. Eileen Skellern's nephew Paul Forte was invited to speak, remembering 'Auntie Eileen'. Daniel Kelly presented Anne with her commemorative plaque, and Ben Hannigan presented Mary with her plaque. Guests enjoyed great, company, fine weather and excellent hospitality. Especially thanks to Ben Hannigan and colleagues at Cardiff University

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Photographs by Tom Hannigan


Skellern: Anne Aiyegbusi, Elizabeth Hughes

Lifetime Award: Mary Chambers, Brenda Happell

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