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Influential mental health nurse receives prestigious award

Emeritus professor Kevin Gournay received the Eileen Skellern Lifetime Achievement award for this contribution to mental health nursing

Emeritus professor Kevin Gournay received the Eileen Skellern Lifetime Achievement award for this contribution to mental health nursing
Professor Kevin Gournay. Picture: Barney Newman

A once controversial figure in mental health nursing has just landed a major lifetime achievement award.

Emeritus professor Kevin Gournay has received the Eileen Skellern Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution to mental health nursing.

Particularly through the 1990s and early 2000s, Professor Gournay challenged conventional assumptions about mental health nursing and refocused the profession towards addressing the needs of people who have severe mental illness.

Go back a quarter of a century and many community mental health nurses worked in GP surgeries providing care for people with depression and anxiety. The needs of people with severe mental ill-health, schizophrenia in particular, were largely ignored.

Award-winner led innovative psychosocial intervention training programmes

Mental health nursing care was often routed in defunct – certainly not evidence based – psychoanalytic theories.

Professor Gournay led a number of pivotal clinical trials that showed that such approaches at best had no effect at all and at worst did harm. He argued there was a need for mental health nurses to be competent in applying evidence-based psychosocial interventions.

He led and developed several highly innovative psychosocial intervention training programmes, including the Thorn course alongside nursing colleagues Catherine Gamble and Professor Charlie Brooker.

Professor Gournay also inspired the next generation of mental health nurse researchers; nurse researchers that led and were awarded grants from major funding bodies, and worked in large interdisciplinary research groups.

Worked tirelessly to improve the lives of people experiencing mental ill-health

Many of these researchers – including the three of us – now hold professorial appointments in different parts of the world and lead their own research programmes.

For nearly 50 years Professor Gournay has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of people experiencing mental ill-health. He has remained an active clinician and still delivers cognitive behaviour therapy to people with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorders, despite being retired.

It has been a lifetime well spent and we congratulate him.



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