Role model: Louise Theodosiou

Authors: Anne Gulland 

Publication date:  10 Oct 2017

The child and adolescent psychiatrist at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust speaks to Anne Gulland

Louise Theodosiou is a great advocate for psychiatry and says she feels lucky to have made it her career. “What makes psychiatry an amazing branch of medicine is the opportunity to really understand what’s going on in people’s lives,” she says. “We have this chance to understand why someone has reached the point they have, and to help them change things.”

Theodosiou spent her childhood in Africa where her father was a paediatrician—here, she was first exposed to the disparities that exist in society. She now works in Moss Side, a deprived area of Manchester once synonymous with guns and gang violence. “It’s a privilege and I feel like I’m working with some of the communities that I worked with in Africa,” she says.

She works in a service called Emerge, focusing on helping 16 to 17 year olds transition into adult life. “We try to emphasise the fact that for many people an episode of mental ill health will not be something that is ongoing,” she says. “We’re very interested in the Thrive model developed by the Tavistock Clinic. We want young adults to thrive, but there may be situations where they need help. It’s about transitioning into adult life, not just into adult mental health services.”

Theodosiou did her pre-clinical training at St Andrew’s University before moving to Manchester where she did her clinical work. Here, she met Clive Hyde, a psychiatrist who first got her interested in her chosen specialty. At a medical house job at the Manchester Royal Infirmary she was exposed to patients with mental health problems in the emergency department. As a result, she applied for a psychiatric rotation where she met some “fantastic nurses who taught me so much about understanding and engaging with families.”

Other inspirations include forensic psychiatrist Kenny Ross, and Prathiba Chitsabesan, who now has a role with NHS England and who supported Theodosiou during her royal college membership exams. Theodosiou was appointed a consultant in 2005.

“What’s amazing about working with 16 to 17 year olds is the sense that you can help change their lives. You can re-engage them with education and help them to change their behaviour. You can talk to them about healthy living, not smoking, and reducing their alcohol intake,” she says.

Over the past two years she has also been working with young trans people. She says that she is not an expert in gender dysphoria, and that her role is more about raising awareness of trans issues. For example, a new swimming pool is being built in the city and Theodosiou and her colleagues from across the public and voluntary sector have lobbied authorities to introduce gender neutral toilets and swimming times for trans males. “My work is about awareness raising,” she says. “Attitudes are changing—a lot of that’s down to the LGBT community.”

Theodosiou is also trying to change attitudes to mental ill health and psychiatry through her role as a spokesperson on child and adolescent mental health for the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

“There are still some families who struggle to understand depression as an illness. Some people worry about overmedicalisation, but the decisions I make when I start young people on drugs are collaborative decisions,” she says.

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to speak about subjects I know something about and to feel that view is respected. The media have been respectful—it’s been a positive experience.”

When asked about further ambitions Theodosious says that she would like to carry on with both her media and trans work. But she adds, “The main thing I want to do is carry on with my work as a psychiatrist. I love it—it’s such a satisfying career.”

Nominated by Peter Sweeney, consultant psychiatrist at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

“Louise is a fantastic adolescent psychiatrist, who has the superb skill of being able to relate to young people, many of whom are experiencing significant emotional health problems and presenting in crisis. Louise’s warm and empathic approach gives young people a space to explore their difficulties, and find practical solutions. She is also a passionate advocate for the LGBT community, and her work has improved awareness of emotional health difficulties in this group of young people at a national level. She has inspired me and many other doctors to choose psychiatry.”

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Anne Gulland BMJ Careers

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