2019 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.

(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.

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

A lecture by Professor David A. Ross

Date: 28 November 2019

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.

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 Chair 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.


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.

Speaker biography

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).

Read more to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry