Dr Adrian James will draw on lived experience having received treatment for depression across two spells, the latter lasting two years.
Patients harbouring scepticism towards the psychiatry profession may have cause for encouragement this week following the surprise election success of Dr Adrian James.
"I will champion diversity and the needs of marginalised groups."
The forensic psychiatrist defied some expectations on Wednesday to defeat the more high-profile candidature of Professor Kam Bhui and the equally experienced Professor Pamela Taylor to win the Presidency of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
In claiming one of the most influential positions in mental health care, James will represent his lived experience of mental illness as well as his profession in the interactions with government he will lead on for the College from July.
These will include conversations with the Department for Health and Social Care – and perhaps Prime Minister Boris Johnson – over the imminent reform of the Mental Health Act, following the independent review led by former College President Sir Simon Wessely.
The College organised its first ever electoral hustings before Christmas and Dr James alluded to his own experience of mental illness to his peers in the audience.
While his rivals also spoke of breaking down stigma, Dr James demonstrated it through his disclosure in an appearance that was also made available to the public online.
Mental Health Today contacted the forensic psychiatrist after the Q and A session in London and he confirmed that he had been treated for two episodes of depression.
The most recent concluded in 2011 following a course of antidepressants and two years battling the illness.
Professor Kam Bhui delivered an otherwise more polished presentation, with the renowned journal editor showcasing all his communication prowess.
With BAME patients disproptionately detained under the Mental Health Act, Bhui spoke movingly about how his career was shaped by seeing the racialised disadvantage experienced by one of his first patients.
Bhui however has also been involved in some cynical approaches to commuicating with patients.
Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry earlier this year, Bhui advocated that a faux genetic test for schizophrenia should be made available on the NHS.
"It can help people understand that they have an illness like any other, just like epilepsy or diabetes, and may also mean that they and their families are more comfortable with the idea of them taking medication,” Bhui explained.
A chromosome correlation has been observed in just one percent of patients with schizophrenia, and those without a schizophrenia diagnosis have also been seen to exhibit it, the Royal College of Psychiatrists later confirmed to Mental Health Today.
How close was the voting?
In the first round of voting, Professor Taylor trailled behind with 24.57 percent of the votes, compared to Professor Bhui with 37.36 percent and on Dr James 38.08 percent.
After Professor Taylor’s second preferences were redistributed, Professor Bhui won 45.7 percent of the votes (1,530) but was pipped by Dr Adrian James who collected 48.4 percent (1,619).
The position of President is the most senior post in the College, with a national and international leadership role in psychiatry. The President also chairs the College’s Council and Board of Trustees.
Speaking after the result, President-elect Dr Adrian James, said: "I’m humbled and delighted to be elected President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists."
"This is a pivotal time for Psychiatry. I will focus my energies on achieving parity of esteem, addressing workforce wellbeing and championing diversity and the needs of marginalised groups."
"I would like to thank Professors Bhui and Taylor for such a stimulating and positive campaign. My gratitude to all our members who have placed their trust in me."
Outgoing President Professor Wendy Burn, who will remain in post until July 1, said: "I know that Dr Adrian James will bring passion and commitment to the continuation of the work that I have been doing to ensure that care for our patients is improved."