1. Although I have had the title of Professor of Psychiatry at Imperial College for many years I have always been a practising doctor on the front line. Much of my work has been carried out in the community, pioneering seeing patients at general practice clinics rather than in hospital but now resources are so stretched this can no longer be considered. But this is the best way to join up mental health services and it will not be forgotten.



2. I was Spike Milligan's gardener when a medical student (he was really my first patient). Spike Milligan was living in Finchley when I became his gardener. It was not as easy task. I was told on my first day that if the curtains were drawn in his bedroom when I arrived for work this meant he was depressed, could not tolerate any noise, and that I should go home immediately. When he was not depressed he was always playing practical jokes, asking me to do ridiculous jobs in the garden but, when done, phoned me the next day to tell me how stupid I was for mishearing him. I had long chats with his nanny, an ex-psychiatric nurse. She was one of the few people who could get round him.

3. I am an identical twin and my brother is also a psychiatrist. This has proved very helpful as we can substitute for each other without anyone knowing. He has given international lectures for me and vice-versa.

4. Part of my work in nidotherapy is to show mentally ill patients that they can break out of their chains by joining in drama and song. So they have taken part in a neo-Shakespearian play (with songs), The Death of King John, a remake of the Canterbury Tales, The Newarke Canterbury Tales, an operetta about Edward Elgar in his first post as bandmaster of Worcester County Asylum, The Teaching of Edward, and another one about the romance of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Browning. They have done marvels for mental health, probably less so for musicology.

5. I have been an adviser to the World Health Organisation. Every 10-20 years the World Health Organisation creates a new system of classification for all diseases. Between 2010 and 2017 I was the Chair of the Revision Group for the Classification of Personality Disorders. The new classification is coming out in January 2022 and abolishes the present labels that are widely derided in favour of a single spectrum – on which we are all placed.

6. I received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2015.

7. I am an expert in health anxiety (and in anxiety due to COVID). Health anxiety is excessive concern over health and is getting more common because of cyberchondria (browsing the Internet for disease – Dr Google is available 24 hours a day). COVID health anxiety is an increasing problem that overlaps with normal concern about getting the coronavirus disease. I am involved with Imperial College colleagues in treating abnormal COVID anxiety using a psychological approach which works very well with other forms of health anxiety.

8. I have invented a new treatment for mental illness called nidotherapy. Nidotherapy sounds complicated but it is not. Mental illness often becomes chronic and we run out of treatments fairly quickly. But in many instances the environment can be harnessed as therapy. By analysing all aspects of people's lives we can change environments, physical, social and personal, so that there is a better fit for the person. There are two stories in Poleaxed, one about a mysterious virus, the other about a young woman breaking away from a life of troubled feelings to a new dawn, all with the help of environmental change. Nidotherapy is becoming very popular in Sweden and Germany (where it is called social psychotherapy) and needs more exposure in the UK. See www.nidotherapy.com.

9. I have two cats who appear in all my books. They are short-haired black cats with white markings and their names are Hamish and Haggis.

10. I have all my hair

Poleaxed is published by The Book Guild and is available now 

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