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Comedian Jo Brand elected Honorary Fellow at King's

Posted on 24/07/2013

Comedian Jo Brand has been elected an Honorary Fellow of King’s College London, in recognition of her work as an advocate for people with mental health problems, support of mental health research and long-standing association with the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM).

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Jo Brand's Fellowship was presented to her by the Chairman of King's College Council, Lord Douro (left), and the Principal of King's, Professor Sir Rick Trainor (right) on Thursday 3rd July 2014 at a ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. 

Professor Til Wykes, Vice Dean for Research at King’s IoP and former colleague of Jo’s at SLaM said: “Most people know Jo as an intelligent and challenging comedian who appears in high profile shows such as QI and Have I Got News for You. But that’s just her ‘day job’. She also works tirelessly as an advocate for people with mental health problems, ensuring mental health issues and stigma are highlighted in the public domain and, in private, supporting research and the mental health community.”

She adds: “We are very pleased that Jo has continued to recognise her association with SLaM and the Institute of Psychiatry throughout her busy life as a comedian.  She has already received academic recognition from other universities, and we are now delighted that she is becoming an honorary fellow of King’s College London.” 

Commenting on the fellowship, Jo Brand said: “I am delighted to become an Honorary Fellow of King's College London and I thank you for this title. I very much hope some of the new crop of fully fledged Dr's emerging from King’s will consider psychiatry as a career and raise the profile of mental health in the future. Sincere thanks to everyone at King's College London and the Institute of Psychiatry with my best wishes to all in the next academic year.”

Jo’s association with SLaM and the IoP began when she trained as a psychiatric nurse and was in the first cohort of individuals to get a degree in Social Sciences and Mental Health Nursing. Within six years she had become the senior charge nurse in the Emergency Clinic at the Maudsley.

Jo started her career as a comedian while working for SLaM and her comedy writing featured in the Maudsley pantomime. She continued to use knowledge gained from her time at the Maudsley to promote public understanding of mental health issues; and maintained  her association with the IoP by becoming a founder trustee of the Psychiatry Research Trust, which provides small grants to young researchers.

In 2010 she played a crucial role in highlighting the importance of mental health research through a highly successful reception attended by MPs, celebrities, mental health researchers and King’s College London staff at Number 11 Downing Street. Not only did she give up precious time to endorse and support the event, encouraging others to attend, but her passion and commitment were essential drivers for the project.

In October last year Jo led a special comedy night at the South Bank Centre, in aid of mental health research and care at SLaM. Jo said then: ‘I support SLaM because we should all be able to talk about our mental health, honestly and openly, and because SLaM staff are inspirational, their common sense, unending kindness and ability to deal with very tense situations is amazing.’

Her recent work for TV and for the stage demonstrates her continuing commitment to the public understanding of mental health issues and the need for compassion for people with mental health problems, by making serious points indirectly through gentle comedy. Her play Mental and her BAFTA-nominated TV series Getting On have drawn from her experiences at the Maudsley and her work as a psychiatric nurse.

Jo Brand is now Vice President of the Patients Association, which advocates patient involvement in services. She lectures on nursing, and writes about mental health issues in newspapers and journals, as well as working with many mental health charities. She supports women at work through appearances in shows highlighting International Women’s Day – something she began when she worked in the Maudsley Emergency Clinic. As a long-term resident in Camberwell and active in local groups, she gives high profile support for community issues which is vital for the university community as well as for the wider population of South London.

A total of 20 individuals have been elected Fellows or Honorary Fellows of King’s College London in 2013. Most of them will be presented at the graduation ceremonies this summer. Find out more here

For further information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry, tel: (+44) 0207 848 5377 or email: seil.collins@kcl.ac.uk

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