Inspired by this message, Synergi is using International Women’s Month to highlight the narratives of women championing new pathways and outcomes for ethnic minority people experiencing severe mental distress, tackling systemic and structural racism, elevating the voices of the unheard and campaigning for policy change at local and national levels.
These women are experts by experience, carers, researchers, activists and practitioners. Like many, they are women who are doing the work, where it matters, yet are often operating under the radar in male-dominated spaces with largely male-focused narratives.
Until 31 March 2020, we will be featuring blog posts and interviews with just some of these amazing women: Dr Cassandra Addai, Ann-Marie, Dr Angela Byrne, Professor Stephanie Hatch, Anna-Theresa Jieman, Anita Kumari, Dr Karen Newbigging, Lady Phyll and Naomi Sumner Chan, and possibly more.
Tell us about women you know who are doing impactful work in their homes, communities and systems.
Cassandra Addai is a newly qualified Clinical Psychologist, having recently completed her training at the University of East London. Her thesis explored young people’s experience of the UK refugee family reunion process. She now lives in Edinburgh and works in a rural service with adults experiencing mental health difficulties.
Outside of her professional work, she has written pieces that reflect her interest in mental health, anti-racist practice and feminism which spans beyond her professional work. Her published work includes an essay in ‘The Colour of Madness: exploring BAME mental health in the UK’, edited by Dr Samara Linton and Rianna Walcott.
You can follow her on Twitter: @cassiereflects
Ann-Marie works at a Mental Health NHS Trust. She has had a long career working within NHS clinical services with children and families and within various mental health settings. Her grandparents migrated from Jamaica to Britain in the 1950s as part of the Windrush generation.
In 1998 her mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and Ann-Marie has taken an active role as a carer for her mother since her diagnosis by advocating for changes in her treatment. Inspired by her mother’s journey, Ann-Marie’s curiosity in human behaviour led her towards studying a degree in psychology.
She is currently working towards a doctorate in clinical psychology. Ann-Marie has gained valuable insight into mental health systems from both her personal and professional experiences and strongly advocates for service users’ participation in their care and treatment, empowering the lived experiences ‘voices’ to be heard.
Angela Byrne is a Clinical Psychologist working for East London NHS Foundation Trust in a service to improve psychological therapies provision for black and minority ethnic communities in Tower Hamlets, London.
She also works for Derman, a Hackney-based charity for the wellbeing of the Kurdish and Turkish communities. Hailing originally from Ireland, Angela qualified as a clinical psychologist from the University of East London in 1999.
For 16 years she worked in HIV and sexual health services, both in the NHS and the charity sector, including at Positive East HIV Charity, where she co-created and delivered Re: Assure Women’s Project for refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant women living with HIV.
She also teaches on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology courses at UEL, UCL and the University of Hertfordshire.
You can follow Angela on Twitter: @abyrne8391
Stephani Hatch is a Professor of Sociology and Epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London.
Stephani leads an interdisciplinary research programme and public engagement activities focused on urban mental health, inequalities in mental health and health services, discrimination, and young adult mental health.
She is currently the Principal Investigator (PI) for the Tackling Inequalities and Discrimination Experiences in Health Services (TIDES) study funded by a Wellcome Trust Investigator’s Award and leads The HYPE (improving the Health of Young People) Project. Stephani is also co-PI for the South East London Community Health (SELCoH) study, a psychiatric and physical morbidity study set in the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth that began in 2008.
Stephani is a Co-Investigator for the ESRC funded Centre for Society and Mental Health, leading a programme focussed on Communities and Mental Health. She is also the founder and lead for the Health Inequalities Research Network (HERON), a public engagement network that promotes collaborative community approaches to knowledge dissemination, action and youth outreach.
Finally, Stephani has been co-leading initiatives promoting and changing policies to insure the embeddedness of Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London since 2014 and serves on national advisory boards in this area. She is currently the Co-Chair of the IoPPN Diversity & Inclusion Self-Assessment Team.
You can find more about her work here.
Anna-Theresa Jieman is a budding researcher. She is currently a postgraduate student and Research Assistant at UCL, and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire.
Anna-Theresa has assisted on a systematic review and meta-analysis on descriptions of women’s lived experiences, before and after a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome (or autism/ASD without a learning disability), and another research project that aimed to raise awareness into Female Genital Mutilation.
She is currently further developing her research skills through the MSc Social Research Methods at UCL in preparation for PhD research. Anna-Theresa’s research will aim to understand how the intersection between gender and race influences the experience, treatment and outcomes of common mental disorders among black women, using the Strong Black Women Schema as a theoretical lens.
She hopes to develop an expertise in social models of mental illness, specifically to investigate the role of marginalisation, ethnicity and race. Her MSc dissertation will be a qualitative study that will be a pilot study for her PhD research. Here is a link to her research project: Strong Black Women? Investigating the role of intersectionality in the experience, treatment and outcomes of common mental disorders among Black women.
You can follow Theresa on Twitter @ATJieman
An activist, motivational speaker, mental health campaigner, Anita Kumari has worked in the third and statutory sectors for 30 years, designing and delivering a range of policies and practices that tackle inequalities. Anita has lived experience of mental distress, is a suicide survivor and an expert by experience.
Anita has held many positions, including Director of Strategic Management and Planning at Hackney Race Equality Council, Director of Warwick District Race Equality Council and Project Coordinator at the Sahil Project, South Asian Mental Health Project.
During that time Anita provided evidence to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, delivered post MacPherson training for police officers and judges, and developed the award-winning Community against Racism, a community-based response to racist incidents, with Warwickshire Police. She has also worked tirelessly to empower South Asian women to challenge forced marriages and honour-based violence and trained hundreds of domestic violence advocates.
Anita currently works as a Regional Equalities Coordinator for Time to Change, an award winning evidence-based campaign to fight against mental health stigma and discrimination.
As a motivational speaker she shares her story to encourage everyone to be more open and honest about mental distress as speaking out saved her life. Anita is driven by a passion to make a difference and to honour her mother’s memory who died by suicide in 1977.
You can follow Anita on Twitter: @antu50
Karen Newbigging is a Chartered Psychologist, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and Senior Fellow of the School for Social Care. She is currently Senior Lecturer in Healthcare Policy and Management, HSMC, University of Birmingham, and the Institute for Mental Health.
Originally qualifying as a Clinical Psychologist, Karen has over 30 years’ experience in mental health, including direct service provision and commissioning. For the past 15 years, Karen has been involved in mental health research, service evaluations and system development for various health and social care organisations, including government.
Karen is an experienced researcher, drawing on multiple methods to investigate the implementation of health and social care policy. She has been the Principal Investigator for a wide range of studies including those funded by NIHR and the Department of Health Policy Research Unit.
Her recent research has focused on mental health crisis provision, advocacy and voice, and action to tackle health inequalities and discrimination. Karen is a member of the Centre for Mental Health’s Equalities Commission.
You call follow Karen on Twitter: @NewbiggingKaren
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is widely known as Lady Phyll, partly due to her decision to reject a MBE to protest Britain’s role in formulating anti-LGBTQ penal codes across its empire. Executive Director at Kaleidoscope International Trust, Phyll has over 20 years’ experience as an LGBTQ rights activist and anti-racism campaigner.
She has spent a decade advocating for the rights of workers within the largest civil service union as a lead negotiator on behalf of Civil Service workers. Initially working as Head of Political Campaigns, she moved into the role of Head of Equality and Learning at Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Trade Union.
Phyll is the Co-Founder and nucleus of the award-winning celebration and protest that is UK Black Pride, which she set up to promote unity and co-operation among all black people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin descent as well as their friends who identify as LGBT+.
A community builder and organiser, Phyll is also a columnist and a public speaker with a focus on intersectional matters of race, gender, sexual orientation and class.
You can follow Lady Phyll on Twitter: @MsLadyPhyll
Naomi Sumner Chan is a Manchester-based Playwright, Dramaturg and theatre-maker. She leads Brush Stroke Order, a business which encourages people to try different forms of creative writing and supports playwrights via a script reading service, mentoring, workshops and production support.
Naomi also works as a freelance script reader for The National Theatre and Theatre 503. Previously she has read for Sheffield Theatres, The Royal Exchange Theatre and the Papatango Playwriting Prize. As a Playwright, Naomi has had work performed at Oldham Coliseum Theatre, York Theatre Royal, CAST, Arcola Theatre and Theatre 503.
In 2019 she toured her play SAME SAME DIFFERENT which explored trans-racial adoption and identity to venues across the North of England. The play was commissioned by Eclipse Theatre as part of their Slate programme. Her new play DANDELIONS, exploring the lives of three generation of British Forces children is in development with support from The Lowry.
You can follow Naomi on Twitter: @naomisumner