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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness


10 Things you didn’t know about RCPsych Public Education

1. Our website receives a fraction of the funding that a comparable business spends, but with around 3,397,883 visitors last year, achieves more hits than any Medical Royal College. Until February 2011 (something we will attempt to regain), it was the number one mental health website in Europe and worldwide, second only to the American Psychological Association.

2. The College’s public education department has produced over 300 leaflets, now available in 17 other languages. Our Help is at Hand leaflets were recently accredited by the NHS Information Standard and have received several awards. Our most popular leaflet on CBT has been looked at 62,594 in a year. These leaflets – all of which can be downloaded free of charge – are written by dedicated members and our partners, especially service users and carers. Dr Phil Timms has coordinated our editorial output since 2002, and was the first winner of the RCPsych Public Educator of the Year in 2009. The Child and Adolescent Family Public Editorial Board, chaired by Professor Ann Le Couteur, produces and updates the Mental Health and Growing Up series of leaflets (free to download).


3. We keep a database of psychiatrists willing speak to print and broadcast media, on almost every subject related to psychiatry, and broader mental health issues. We update this list as often as volunteers and new speakers agree to participate – it represents a huge variety of psychiatrists by geography, specialist area and opinion. If your area or your views are neglected, just contact Liz Leicester to get on the list.


4. A small group of experienced College spokespeople has taken on the additional challenge of responding to high profile UK homicides by people with diagnosed mental illness. Here the challenge is to communicate clearly the lessons learned from each individual tragedy, and to place into context the small increased risk of violence from a minority of people with psychosis. By comparison, people with severe mental illness are substantially more likely to be victims of violence (including homicide) and our society sees more loss of life as a result of intoxication with alcohol and illegal drugs.


5. Last year, the Communications Department sent out 88 press releases. These have a modest impact, competing with many other stories (medical and otherwise) for print space and broadcast time. Our speakers and College spokespeople achieve a disproportionately high impact every month. We produce a monthly digest of our press coverage. Contact Liz Leicester to receive an e-mail version of this each month.


6. Over the last 15 years, over 800 psychiatrists have received free media training organised by the College Public Education Committee (PEC) to cope with the challenges of modern media interviews. These have taken place in every part of these islands – with “hands on training” from (to name but six) Mike Shooter, Richard Williams, Peter Byrne, Mark Salter, Neel Halder and Ros Ramsay.


7. One of our strong areas is Film. We write about films, we advise on them, we programme festivals and we make them. Recently we worked with Dr Kamran Ahmed to host Medfest – a series of university-based evenings that will screen films to medical students. Other than their enjoyment, we believe these events will increase recruitment into our profession.


8. Public education is already strong in the RCPsych in Northern Ireland and the RCPsych in Scotland. Last year we moved one PEC meeting to Manchester to collaborate with our colleagues to create PEC – North. This October, we will move the second ever PEC meeting outside London to Coventry to work with the West Midlands and Trent Divisions.


9. PEC was actively involved in the production and editing of the College’s bestselling books for the general public, The Mind: A User’s Guide and The Young Mind. We have sold more copies of these books than any other RCPsych publication. Since 1988, PEC has organised an annual Debate for Young People. Over 500 14- to 18-year olds attend each event and participate in lively discussion. We believe this makes pupils and teachers more positive about what we do and who we are.


10. As fast as we can, we adapt to social media. Our trainees are on Facebook; our Press Officer tweets; and we have a YouTube channel for streaming videos. We are planning to introduce QR codes on our leaflets. Do keep up.


  • Finally, don't forget the Morris Markowe Prize, awarded annually for an original article on a psychiatric topic.


Dr Peter Byrne

Associate-Registrar, Public Education and Patients & Carers


June 2011

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