Previous President's lectures 

Browse below to see videos and synopses of previous lectures at the College, which have touched on everything from neuroscience to suicide prevention.

Webinar: In Place of Fear

Date: 4 February 2021


Illness and ill-being frighten us, as we know all too well in the midst of this pandemic. Fear can produce much-needed action – but it can also preoccupy, distract, undermine thinking, and seriously damage engagement and cooperation. It can breed resentment, exhaustion and despair.

The ways we manage anxiety and fear, whether as patients, clinicians or managers, whether as individuals, families, organisations or societies, are vital to health and wellbeing – even survival.

Our health and social care services could contain our fears much better. Instead, deliberately or otherwise, intimidation and threat too often infect relationships. We will try to understand this through exploring the dynamics of individuals, groups and systems - and then think about how to create a climate in which people and practice can thrive.

This was followed by a live Q&A session hosted by Dr Adrian James, President, The Royal College of Psychiatrists. 

Speaker biographies

John Ballatt, Penny Campling and Chris Maloney are the authors of ‘Intelligent Kindness: Rehabilitating the Welfare State’, published by the College and Cambridge University Press (CUP) in February 2020. 

You can find further details, or buy a copy, on the CUP website. RCPsych members get 30% off - head to your member dashboard on the website to get the code. Or, use the discount code IK2021, to get 20% off. This code is valid until 31/12/2021. 

John worked as a practitioner, trainer, manager and executive director in the voluntary sector, local government and the NHS. He now writes, lectures and offers consultancy and support at all levels in the system.

Penny worked many years in the NHS as a Consultant Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist and Clinical Director. She has a particular interest in the power of groups to nurture and heal. She is an independent psychotherapist, writer and blogger, currently supporting frontline ICU staff during the pandemic.

Chris was a Consultant Medical Psychotherapist, and then a GP Partner in Hackney, East London. He also had an independent psychiatric and medical practice with people seeking asylum, and is co-editing a book on Seeking Asylum and Mental Health for the College and CUP.



Webinar: Tales from the top - the highs and lows of my Presidency

Date: 25 September 2020


Former College President, Professor Wendy Burn, talked about the three years of her Presidency. She described how her life changed beyond recognition and will highlight a selection of the major events and challenges of her Presidency. 

The lecture was followed by a live Q&A session hosted by the current College President, Dr Adrian James.

Lecturer biography

Wendy was appointed as a Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist in Leeds in 1990 and currently works part-time in a community mental health team for older people and as the National Mental Health Clinical Advisor to Health Education England.

She has been involved in the organisation and delivery of postgraduate training since she started as a consultant. She has held many roles in education. She set up the Yorkshire School of Psychiatry and was the first Head of School.

She was Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2011 to 2016 and President from 2017 to 2020.

She is currently Co-chair of the Gatsby Wellcome Neuroscience Project which focuses on modernising the neuroscience taught to psychiatric trainees. She is also Chair of the Clinical group of Equally Well, a project set up to improve physical health in people with a serious mental illness.


Webinar: 'Psychiatrists and prescribed opioids'

Date: 5 June 2020


In the USA, there has been much public concern over ‘the opioid crisis’, which has been largely understood in terms of an iatrogenic epidemic of drug misuse. Although the UK has not experienced anything similar, opioid prescriptions have increased markedly in the last twenty years. The increase appears to have plateaued, but there is no sign of the amount of opioids prescribed dropping from the current high level. Furthermore, the proportion of strong opioids prescribed has increased.

This increase in prescriptions has had some impact amongst drug misusers, but the wide spread use of potent opioids for chronic non-cancer pain also has intrinsic problems for patients who show no addiction behaviours. Whilst these drugs do have an important role in pain management, there is growing evidence that they are most effective for acute pain and much less effective when used continuously for long periods. They carry a heavy

burden of side effects, including a marked impact on patients’ cognition and mood, and thus on their mental health. There is also evidence that opioid induced hyperalgesia may be common with long-term high-dose regime. Hence, in some cases, opioids may make chronic pain worse rather than better. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to reduce or stop these drugs.

Opioids have benefits too, and I would not wish to advocate a return to the situation in hospitals when I was a medical student, whereby opioids were commonly and needlessly withheld from patients who were suffering intolerable acute pain. In this lecture, I will explore the complex issues involved by reference to a programme of research that has been conducted over the past few years at Bangor University’s Centre for Mental Health and Society. I will conclude by drawing out the implications of our findings for British psychiatrists.

Lecturer biography

Rob Poole is Professor of Social Psychiatry at Bangor University, where he co-directs the Centre for Mental Health and Society with Professor Peter Huxley. He is Honorary Consultant in Liaison Psychiatry at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and with Wrexham Pain Management Team.

After training in London and Oxford, he worked as an NHS community psychiatrist in Liverpool and in North Wales for 21 years. He became a full-time academic psychiatrist in 2009.

His clinical and research interests centre on the social and economic determinants of mental health. His main current research activities concern dysfunctional high-dose opioid use in people with chronic pain, and self-harm in South Asia.

He has written extensively, including scientific papers, book chapters, textbooks and a blog. He was first author of Clinical Skills in Psychiatric Treatment (2008), ‘Mental Health and Poverty’ (2014) and Psychiatric Interviewing and Assessment (1st Ed 2006, 2nd Ed 2017), all of which were published by Cambridge University Press. He is presently preparing a book on suicide prevention for RCPsych Publications with Professor Murad Khan, Aga Khan University, Karachi, and Professor Catherine Robinson, University of Manchester, UK.

He received the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Integrating Neuroscience into 21st Century Medical Education: Lessons from the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative

A lecture by Professor David A. Ross

Date: 28 November

Location: The Royal College of Psychiatrists, 21 Prescot Street, London.


While psychiatry and neuroscience have experienced unprecedented growth in the past 20 years, for a host of reasons it has been difficult to incorporate these findings into contemporary medical education. In this talk, we will present a novel, collaborative approach for integrating new scientific findings into medical education using a framework that is rooted in principles of adult learning.

(Not so) legal highs: understanding novel psychoactive substances

A lecture by Dr Derek Tracy, introduced by Dr Adrian James, RCPsych Registrar

Date: 29 November 2019

Location: West Midlands Division Winter Academic Meeting, St John's Hotel, 651 Warwick Road, Solihull. 


There has been an explosion of novel psychoactive substances (NPS), with over one hundred new compounds identified each year in recent times; at present there are at least 700 such drugs. A 2016 change in the law banned them, but has shown limited success, and it is fundamentally unlikely we can ‘legislate’ our way out of drug harms. 

Some of the new compounds appear particularly potent and harmful, and there has been a rapid growth in their use in prisons and psychiatric wards, fuelled by their low price and the fact that many are difficult to detect. The novel cannabinoids – sometimes generically referred to as ‘spice’ – are a particular concern, with agitated aggressive psychotic states that can be difficult to manage.

The large and growing number of drugs has meant that many clinicians feel confused and overwhelmed by the area, but it is a topic of importance for all, not just substance use services. This talk will explain how we have reached our current situation, and provide a practical clinical model for categorising NPS, and assessing and treating your patients in general settings. 


Conflict, co-operation and complexity

A lecture by Lord John Alderdice, introduced by Professor Wendy Burn

Date: 15 November 2019

Location: All Ireland meeting, Titanic Hotel, Belfast


It would be difficult to argue that our world is not characterised by the spread of conflict and complexity. But can a better understanding of complexity theories point to the possibilities for cooperation in our diversity, rather than political violence? John Alderdice will explore this challenge and its practical implications.

Speaker biography 

Lord Alderdice headshotLord John Alderdice FRCPSYCH is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University Maryland and Chairman of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building in Belfast. As Leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland for eleven years from 1987, he played a significant role in negotiating the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, was first Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and from 2004 to 2011 was appointed by the British and Irish Governments as one of four international commissioners overseeing security normalization and terrorist demobilization. This involvement on the security front continued with his appointment by the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland to help produce earlier this year a report on disbanding paramilitary groups.

Formerly President of Liberal International (the global federation of more than 100 liberal political parties), he is now Presidente d’Honneur. Formerly a consultant psychiatrist in psychotherapy in Belfast, he continues consulting, mediating, negotiating, teaching and writing on fundamentalism, radicalization and violent political conflict around the world. He has been recognized with many honorary degrees and prizes including the International Psychoanalytic Association Award for Extraordinarily Meritorious Service to Psychoanalysis, the World Federation of Scientists Prize for the application of Science to the Cause of Peace, Liberal International’s 2015 Prize for Freedom and various honorary degrees and fellowships.

'Magic Medicine’ – A film by Monty Wates

Special screening of ’Magic Medicine’ A film by Monty Wates, with a follow-up Q & A session with Professor David Nutt

Date: 22 October 2019

Location: Royal College of Psychiatrists, 21 Prescott Street, London.


Can Magic Mushrooms cure depression? Over 4 years, filmmaker Monty Wates was given exclusive access to the first ever medical trial to give psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms) to a group of volunteers suffering from clinical depression. His remarkable film follows three of the volunteers and their families, and the ambitious staff running the trial, who are hoping this controversial treatment will have the power to transform millions of lives. With deeply moving footage of the “trips” the patients go on, this intimate film is an absorbing portrait of the human cost of depression, and the inspirational people contributing to ground-breaking psychedelic research.

Early detection of possible psychosis in young people: is Stigma linked with symptoms or the At Risk Identification?

Speaker: Dr Lawrence Yang

Date: 13 March 2019

Location: RCPsych, 21 Prescot St, London E1 8BB

Lecture synopsis

The clinical high-risk state for psychosis syndrome (CHR) offers substantial potential benefits in identifying and treating at-risk youth at the earliest signs of psychosis. Early treatment might lead to decreased symptoms, thus reducing stigma related to symptoms. However, stigma of the CHR state for psychosis designation could initiate further stigma through the label of risk for psychosis among identified young people.

We studied 170 CHR state for psychosis individuals in a major, NIH-funded longitudinal study at 3 US centres from 2012 to 2017. Labelling-related measures of stigma (e.g., “shame of being identified as at psychosis-risk”) adapted to the CHR group, and a parallel measure of symptom-related stigma (e.g., “shame of the symptoms associated with CHR”) were administered. These measures were examined in relation to outcomes such as self-esteem, quality of life, social functioning and loss of social networks.

We confirmed the conventional wisdom that stigma related to symptoms was somewhat more strongly associated with most outcomes when compared with stigma related to the risk-label.  Stigma related to symptoms remained a significant predictor of self-esteem, quality of life, and social network loss even after accounting for stigma related to the risk-label and the effects of covariates. Yet stigma related to the risk-label was still associated with several outcomes (self-esteem and social network loss) once we factored in stigma related to symptoms.

The lecture will place this study in the context of the knowns of stigma research. Our findings indicate that CHR services should address stigma associated with symptoms quickly at first identification, given their negative impacts on outcomes. Dr Yang will lead a discussion on how we might integrate best evidence into designing services for young people who may develop psychosis.

Download presentation slides (PPTX)


Dr Lawrence Yang is an Associate Professor of Social and Behavioural Sciences at NYU - College of Global Public Health. Dr Yang directs the Global Mental Health and Stigma Program at the College of Global Public Health. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University, where he was faculty for 11 years. Dr Yang received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Boston University and completed his clinical training at Harvard Medical School. Dr Yang’s research focuses on the social factors that influence course of schizophrenia, and he has received training in clinical psychology, anthropology, and psychiatric epidemiology.

First, from his National Institutes of Mental Health K-award, he has formulated theoretical work on how culture relates to stigma and implementing interventions for Chinese immigrants with psychosis in New York City. Second, Dr Yang is PI of a 5-year National Institutes of Mental Health R01 grant examining the neurocognitive and social cognitive underpinnings of the new "clinical high risk state for psychosis" designation, a potentially transformative new syndrome to detect psychotic signs before symptoms develop into a full psychotic disorder. Third, Dr Yang has extensive research in global mental health. He has received an R01 examining the cognition in the ‘natural state’ of psychosis in a large untreated, community sample of individuals with psychosis (n=400), who have not yet received any antipsychotic medications, compared with a treated sample (n=400) and healthy controls (n=400) in China. He also leads an evaluation of barriers and facilitators to mental health intervention scale-up in Latin America (Chile, Brazil and Argentina) via a U19 National Institutes of Mental Health Hub Grant. He has over one hundred publications, including publications in the British Journal of Psychiatry and The Lancet. Dr Yang has received eight Early Career Awards, six of which are national, for his work.

Narendranath N WigThe Professor Narendranath N Wig Lecture

Date: 13 February 2019

Location: RCPsych, 21 Prescot St, London E1 8BB

At the organisers' request, this lecture was not filmed.

Lecture Synopsis

To celebrate the life and work of the late Professor Narendranath N Wig. Professor Wig trained at the Maudsley Hospital and the Institute of Psychiatry, London in the early 1960s. He was a true giant of Indian psychiatry who founded the Department of Psychiatry at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, India in 1963.

He had an illustrious national and International academic career and played a crucial role in the growth of psychiatry in India over the next 5 decades. Professor Wig’s work in community psychiatry played a central role in the development of the National Mental Health Programme in India.

Professor Wig also worked as a Regional Advisor for mental health, World Health Organisation (WHO) in East Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO), Alexandria, Egypt. Professor Wig was the first Indian to receive Honorary Fellowship of Royal College of Psychiatrists.


The lecture was delivered by Professor R Srinivasa Murthy, Professor of Psychiatry (Retired), Bengaluru, India.

Professor Murthy was previously Professor of Community Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India and worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Musings of a kidney doctor, by Professor Peter Mathieson

Date: 25 January 2018

In the first President's Lecture to be held in Scotland, Professor Wendy Burn invited Professor Peter Mathieson to give a talk at the Scotland Winter Meeting. 

The cannabis revolution: implications for society, by Professor David Nutt

Date: 23 January 2018

Lecture synopsis

On 1 November 2018 cannabis products changed in legal status from a controlled drug without medical use to a Schedule 2 medicine has significantly implications for psychiatry. Some of these will be good, e.g. the potential to liberate new treatments for disorders such as schizophrenia and PTSD, but others may be bad such as the possible increased risk of psychotic experiences.

My talk will explore the facts around cannabis products and try to describe a sensible path for research and clinical interventions in this new era.

Download Professor Nutt's presentation (pptx).


Professor David Nutt has spent over 40 years practicing and researching  psychiatry with involvement in national and international organisations involved in the development of new treatments and improving policies.

He is currently the Edmund J Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and Head of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Centre for Academic Psychiatry in the Division of Brain Sciences, Dept of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College London. He is also visiting professor at the Open University in the UK and Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

After 11+ entry to Bristol Grammar he won an Open Scholarship to Downing College Cambridge, then completed his clinical training at Guy's Hospital London. After a period in neurology to MRCP he moved to Oxford to a research position in psychiatry at the MRC Clinical Pharmacology Unit where he obtained his MD. On completing his psychiatric training in Oxford, he continued there as a lecturer and then later as a Wellcome Senior Fellow in psychiatry. He then spent two years as Chief of the Section of Clinical Science in the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in NIH, Bethesda, USA.

He returned to England in 1988 to set up the Psychopharmacology Unit in Bristol University, an interdisciplinary research grouping spanning the departments of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, before moving to Imperial College London in December 2008 where he leads a similar group with a particular focus on brain imaging and translational medicine studies on these disorders.

David has edited the Journal of Psychopharmacology for over twenty five years and acts as the psychiatry drugs advisor to the British National Formulary. He has published over 500 original research papers and a similar number of reviews and books chapters, eight government reports on drugs and 31 books, including one for the general public, ‘Drugs Without the Hot Air’, which won the Transmission book prize in 2014 for Communication of Ideas.

David broadcasts widely to the general public both on radio and television; highlights include being a subject for The Life Scientific on BBC radio 4, several BBC Horizon programs and the Channel 4 documentaries Ecstasy and Cannabis Live. David is much in demand for public affairs programs on therapeutic as well as illicit drugs, their harms and their classification. In 2016 he was advisor to the BBC Religious affairs dept on their ground-breaking programme on psychedelics in religion.

He also lecturers widely to the scientific and medical communities as well as to the public e.g. at the Cheltenham Science and Hay How the Light Gets In Festivals, Glastonbury and other music festivals as well as many Café Scientifiques and Skeptics in the Pub. He also speaks regularly to schools.

In 2010 The Times Eureka science magazine voted him one of the 100 most important figures in British Science, and the only psychiatrist in the list. In 2013 he was awarded the Nature/Sense about Science John Maddox prize for Standing up for Science and in 2016 an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Bath for contributions to science and policy.

'The Trouble with Goats and Sheep' by Joanna Cannon 

Date: 29 November

In her second President's lecture, Joanna provides an update on her first talk a year previously. She talks about her unusual route to becoming a doctor, and how she used creative writing as an antidote to life, once she arrived on the wards.

Joanna, who wrote her first book 'The Trouble with Goats and Sheep' for fun, discusses the challenges and pressures of developing her second book, Three Things about Elsie, which was published in January 2018.

'40 years of Psychiatry, and how it can inform the next 40' by Professor David Nutt

Date: 23 November

Synopsis: Professor David Nutt has spent over 40 years practicing and researching  psychiatry with involvement in national and international organisations involved in the development of new treatments and improving policies.

David broadcasts widely to the general public both on radio and television; highlights include being a subject for The Life Scientific on BBC radio 4, several BBC Horizon programs and the Channel 4 documentaries Ecstasy and Cannabis Live.

In 2010 The Times Eureka science magazine voted him one of the 100 most important figures in British Science, and the only psychiatrist in the list. In 2013 he was awarded the Nature/Sense about Science John Maddox prize for Standing up for Science and in 2016 an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Bath for contributions to science and policy.

This talk reflected on some key learnings from the different elements of David's career.

‘Becoming human: an idiosyncratic guide to 1,000 million years of the evolution of consciousness’ by Dr Derek Tracy

Date: 23 October 2018

Synopsis: Dr Tracy’s talk tracks 1,000 million years of the evolution of nervous systems in a single hour, taking an idiosyncratic approach to how our brains developed, what made us human, and how that links in with psychopathology.

It leaps from basic multicellular organisms with primitive sensory responses, through primal drivers of appetite and sex, to look at the emergence of emotion and memory in the brain.

The talk considers how humans differed from other hominids, especially Neanderthal, and what that tells us about who we are today, and our unique abilities, particularly at mentalisation.

It asks what other forms of consciousness might exist, and whether we could even recognise them if they do.

Professor Dame Sue Bailey, OBE, DBE: Back to the future - on the road less travelled

Date: 21 March 2018

Lecture synopsis: We all know that where we live will impact radically on the quality of our lives. Across the world the challenge of achieving values and evidenced based, affordable, sustainable health care for all, has become so overwhelming we increasingly risk becoming crisis junkies.

Are we currently condemning prevention and sustainability to the too difficult to do box? How do we deal with diverse views as to whether increased utilisation of Artificial Intelligence in health care will make all things possible, threaten the livelihoods, remove all semblance of citizen confidentiality and rights or deliver the data patterns, that can advance the science of medicine and improve patient outcomes?

Professor Louis Appleby CBE: Things we know about suicide prevention but aren't true’

Date: 6 December 2017

Lecture synopsis: Suicide rates vary by country, within countries and over time, influenced strongly by economic and social factors. What therefore can clinicians do to prevent suicide? This lecture will cover evidence on suicide prevention by health services, especially in mental health, from individual clinical staff to organisations.

It will examine suicide by middle-aged men, who have the highest risk, and by young people, who attract the greatest public concern. It will discuss what we mean by risk assessment, whether the answer is in talking, training or something else, and whether suicide ever happens out of the blue. It will ask: Are mental health services in crisis? Does the blame lie with social media? And have the public had enough of experts?

Joanna Cannon: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Date: 14 September 2017

Lecture synopsis: In this lecture, Joanna will explain how a love of narrative encouraged her to return to education in her thirties, her unusual route to becoming a doctor, and how she used creative writing as an antidote to life, once she arrived on the wards.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was inspired by the time she spent working in psychiatry, and was written just for fun, mainly during her lunch breaks. Joanna will discuss the motivation behind the story, why she felt it needed to be written, and the journey of a book written in an NHS car park, which went on to become a Sunday Times bestseller.

Get in contact to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry