Letter from the Chair of RCPsych in Scotland - December 2020

Scotland news
17 December 2020

What if newspapers were only published every 25 years? What would the headline be? Perhaps “The rise of China” or “The introduction of the World Wide Web”. What if the timescale was 50 years? “World avoids Nuclear Armageddon”? What if it was 100 years? “Child mortality falls”?

This long view of the news was proposed by Tim Harford on Radio 4 this week reading from his new book How to make the world add up. It draws upon the work of Johan Galtung and Mari Ruge who in 1965 put forward a system of twelve factors to define ‘newsworthiness’. Stories based on bad news are unsurprisingly more newsworthy and there is the suggestion that this is amplified by the frequency of transmission. The greater the frequency we consume news the more negative it gets.

Galtung and Ruge could hardly have imaged the news alerts on our phones or viral stories on social media. In contrast, Halford argues that news stories become more positive the slower the frequency of communication.

RCPsych in Scotland Manifesto

So, with this long view, even Covid and Brexit may not make it into the 25-year headline. Advice not to check the news too much is part of the public mental health campaign ‘Clear your head’. A common concern is that serious mental illness is misunderstood in the context of population mental wellbeing messaging. This is one of the themes explored in the RCPsychScot manifesto. Have a look at what the College has been saying to the political parties in the run-up to the May 2021 elections. I hope that some of the ideas will be adopted as new policies and also that members might engage prospective MSPs using the points made in the document.

Election Season

It is also the election season for the College, and I encourage you to vote. Voting is electronic and easy. I am anxious following the Scottish NHS email migration that voting information is sent to out-of-date email addresses. If you think you should have received an election email and have not, please contact elections@rcpsych.ac.uk and check your contact email address on the RCPsych website. A good turnout is a vote of confidence in the health of the College and gives authority to the elected officers.

Choose Psychiatry Scotland

Another indication of our success is the number of medical students in Scotland who become Student Associates. The College can offer access to educational resources, prizes and places at a variety of events. We have just launched a new welcome pack, Choose Psychiatry Scotland webpage, our Facebook page and will shortly be advertising an online ‘Winter School’ for medical students keen to learn more about careers in psychiatry. Thank you to everyone for giving so much time to putting together these resources. An important element to recruitment and retention is the recent revamp of the regional adviser role. Medical Managers should free up time in job plans to allow colleagues to step forward to these posts. That is not easy when we are all so stretched but not to do so is counterproductive.

Zoom Winter Meeting January 2021

Booking is now open for the RCPsych in Scotlands’ online half-day Zoom Winter Meeting. The important themes which underpin John Scott’s review of mental health legislation will be discussed and there is an impressive line-up of speakers. The event will not only be a good way of getting CPD and should be supported by study leave budgets, but it will equip members to engage in this fundamental review of the law more fully. It may seem too much to think of mental health law reform when the demands on us are so great but again not to do so is a false economy. Unless the review is fully informed by the professional voice it risks coming to impractical conclusions or at its worst measures that prejudice patient care.

Christmas Break

I am looking forward to the end of the week when the College closes for a fortnight and a well-earned Christmas break. I have simply ‘headlined’ some of our current activity and there is much more I could have included. 2021 brings our 50th Anniversary as a Royal College and the 180th of our predecessor organisation. I wonder what the appropriate headlines would be to mark those spans of time in psychiatry? I hope as Tim Harford would predict they would be good news stories. And as for Christmas and its 2000-year-old headline that was a good news story too.

Professor John Crichton

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