The hardest thing to do is say goodbye

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Science Journalist for ACAMH

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For the first issue of The Bridge under new editor Dr Juliette Kennedy, we’re using our regular interview feature to say goodbye to outgoing editor Dr Mark Lovell. Mark’s involvement with ACAMH started over a decade ago and he has been editor of The Bridge for five years. I start by asking him how he got there.

“It was an accident,” he said.

Mark had come across an ACAMH event, turned up and paid at the door. Having never heard of the Association, let alone considered membership, he strolled inside.

“I walked into the committee meeting for the Yorkshire branch and was asked in the meeting if I would be their next chair, I haven’t looked back,” he said.

“I became branch chair, then branch liaison officer, and then became involved in CPD and training.”

At the time, being editor was part of being the branch liaison officer; it has since become a role in its own right. How did Mark find juggling editorship with other duties?

“ My work-life balance is complicated,” he said.

This may be an understatement – as well as the four paid positions he holds with the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, he is involved in multiple projects nationally. They range from the patient advice website The Children’s e-Hospital, through to advising NHS England on looked-after children with learning disabilities.

He is also heavily involved in professional membership bodies, lending his expertise on learning disabilities to a suite of positions at both the Royal College of Psychiatrists and ACAMH. I ask him what he’s going to do with the slither of spare time he’ll get back now he’s passing on the mantle of The Bridge editorship.

He tells me he’ll be taking on new duties for ACAMH, editing for the website and working on new projects for CPD and training. “It’s expanding into the realms of e-learning” he said “either formally through sites like MindEd, or considering new projects such as the Health Education England-funded project with YoungMinds and MindEd last year.”

Mark is referring to a collaboration that saw YoungMinds – a youth mental health charity, and MindEd – a publicly-funded youth mental health education hub, work together with ACAMH on an initiative to improve the use of online learning in CAMHS.

As well as spinning a lot of professional plates, Mark’s spare time also seems to be characterised by an abundance of activity. He keeps healthy through “cycling, running and skating” – that’s inline and old-fashioned quad skates, in case you were wondering. But for fun then there’s also his skateboard, mountain board, wakeboard and surfboard.
“I like variety” he explains.

“Many of these are maintained from when I was a child – my Dad ran an adult pursuit centre – so I got exposed  to a lot of sports,” he said.

His earliest ambition was to be a geologist – his uncle’s job. But it was his father’s outdoor pursuit centre that sparked not only his omnivorous approach to exercise – but also his career.

“I was exposed to other young people and also to a lot of people with disabilities,” he said.

“My Mum used to teach French in day centres, so all aspects of my early life were around people receiving some form of help.”

Mark worked in social care from the age of 16 as a volunteer, as he grew older, he did paid work with children and young adults with disabilities at respite or adult care camps.

When the time came to apply for university, he applied both for medical school, and as a backup, geology.

“Before I applied I knew I wanted to be a paediatrician. As soon as I discovered the behavioural sciences, around week 2 into medical school, I knew I wanted to be a child psychiatrist. When I got to child psychiatry, I realised I wanted to be a child learning disability psychiatrist.”

He says if he wasn’t a clinical psychiatrist he’d probably be a serial entrepreneur “Del Boy style”. This prompts  a question about what developing area in CAMHS  he’s most excited about.

“I think the ability in the future for young people, who could’ve become CAMHS patients, being able to self-manage and self-treat through evidence-based electronic treatments,” he said.

“Some of it’s out there already: there’s computer-based CBT, there’s loads of apps for monitoring anxiety behaviours, mindfulness, logging things, symptom trackers. The evidence base is developing.”

Finally I ask if he has any advice for incoming editor Juliette, who’s duty-bound to read this article?

“Make use of as many contacts as possible.”

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