ISPS UK Committee

We have 12 committee members  who are elected to serve for a 4 year term of office. They come from many different lay and professional backgrounds:

Steph Allan

Steph discovered ISPS online and was excited to become a member. An adult returner to education, Steph is working on a PhD within the Psychosis Research Group, with a particular focus on complex issues within implementation for digital psychosocial interventions. Steph has personal experience of psychosis, voice hearing and hospitalisation. From her experiences, she is passionate about approaches to mental distress which foreground compassion and are mindful of inequality.

Sara Alsaraf

Sara Alsaraf (she/her) is a Doctor, Psychiatry Trainee (ST6) and Creative Arts Therapist (MA Dramatherapy). She is interested in community-based approaches to health and mental health, peer support and honouring experiences of psychosis through the senses and understanding of those with lived experience of psychosis. Her practice is informed by the creative arts, somatics and embodiment, disability justice, healing justice. She also researches equitable co-production and participation in mental health care with marginalised groups, in particular migrants. She is a mama of two little beings and enjoys art, music and time in nature and spirit.

Neil Caton

I have lived experience of psychosis and of early intervention services alongside other community services. I sit on various involvement groups. I have also worked as a service user consultant for the early intervention service where I ran an involvement group and contributed service user perspectives to various working groups. I work as a support worker so have a good empathy with other caring professionals. I am a current trustee of ISPS and have been for some years.

I am firmly committed to psycho social approaches to psychosis and have a special interest in Open Dialogue, The Hearing Voices Network and The Soteria Network.

Simon Downer

Simon is a psychiatrist working in the NHS in an inner city mental health team in Bristol, UK. He is also a psychodynamic psychotherapist working in the NHS and in private practice, a member of Severnside Institute for Psychotherapy and the British Psychoanalytic Council. He has been advisor ally for the Bristol Hearing Voices Network for around ten years. He is Director of the Bristol Psychosis Heath Integration Team, a team of people who experience psychosis, their families and carers, academics, mental health professionals, commissioners, service providers and other experts working together to improve the lives of people with psychosis in Bristol.

Simon is interested in how the systems of psychiatry serve to dehumanise and alienate people, and often do more harm than good. He is trying to promote more thoughtful approaches to mental health work and hopes that working with ISPS will be a powerful way of doing that on a much wider scale.

Joanna Fleck

Joanna Fleck worked in legal aid law for a decade qualifying and practicing as a solicitor. In her work representing people in claims against the state and bereaved families in inquests following deaths in police and prison custody, she became interested in alternative approaches to mental health (other than the medical model used in courts). After completing and MSc in psychology, she encountered ISPS UK while working at Mind in Camden. She is interested in peer support, socio-political understanding of mental health and in challenging current approaches to psychosis in the justice system.

Eamonn Flynn

I have a long career in business, finance and management of arts charities. I appreciate and remain impressed how the arts can help people connect to each other the world over.

As a member of a carer’s group in Haringey, I am appalled how awful treatment in NHS mental services can be experienced by our loved ones. I feel it is vital to keep looking for better and kinder ways of understanding psychosis to help people find their own way. Families and carers are front line and I support the ISPS aims to find a range of approaches towards supporting people in distress.

Akiko Hart (Chair)

Akiko is the CEO of NSUN, the National Survivor User Network (www.nsun.org.uk).  She has previously worked as the Hearing Voices Project Manager at Mind in Camden and the Director of Mental Health Europe.  She is a Trustee of the English Hearing Voices Network and National Voices.

Jen KilyonJen Kilyon

Jen became involved in ISPS about 6 years ago when she first heard about the organisation. She was attracted by its international nature because she believes there is a huge amount we can learn from other cultures and how they approach mental distress. She also appreciated the fact that the organisation welcomed all those committed to promoting a more humane approach to psychosis regardless of their status or allegiance to a “psychological model”. She first became involved in campaigning for more choice in mental health services around 10 years ago when her son first experienced psychosis. She was shocked at what passed for “treatment” and felt the need to move on from my 30 years as an educationalist to become an activist for change in this system. She has worked on many local and national projects and is also a trustee for the Soteria Network where she is helping to set up the first UK Soteria House.

Jessica Pons  

Jessica began working with people diagnosed with ‘psychosis’ in 2006 and is now Hearing Voices project manager at Mind in Camden, developing peer support groups in forensic services, immigration removal centres, young people’s mental health services and the community for people who hear voices, have other sensory experiences or alternative realities. These take a radical yet simple view that people are the expert of their own experience, accepting many different explanations for altered states e.g. trauma, telepathy, biomedical, drug use, systemic etc. Jess is also a qualified integrative psychotherapist practicing within a critical mental health feminist/sociopolitical framework. Jess has family members diagnosed with psychosis, plus is reflective of her own experiences in the liminal spaces of psychosis. She has personal and political interest in institutional racism within psychology/psychiatry, and is a producer for ISPS UK film ‘Dismantling the Master’s House’.

John Richardson

After being hospitalised and given labels of psychosis and schizophrenia, John believes that society needs to establish more humane and meaningful ways of treating people with these experiences. He is enthusiastic about putting lived experience at the centre of understanding and giving a voice to the unheard. He is also a filmmaker who specialises in creating films around the subject of mental health and hosts a podcast called ‘coffee and psychosis’.

Rachel “Rai” Waddingham

Rai is a trainer and consultant specialising in developing respectful approaches to supporting those who struggle with voices, visions, overwhelming beliefs and post-traumatic reactions. She managed the London Hearing Voices Project from 2007 – 2015, where she launched an innovative project developing a sustainable network of Hearing Voices Groups in London’s prisons and forensic hospitals as well as establishing Voice Collective to creatively support children and young people who hear voices, and their families. Rai is a media spokesperson, a trustee of the National Hearing Voices Network and a co-opted board member of Intervoice. She hears voices, sees visions and – during her 20s – spent years in hospital diagnosed with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder. Rai is passionate about the role of self help and peer support in recovery from extreme states of mind. She is committed to increasing the range of alternatives within, and without, the mental health system. For more information, see www.behindthelabel.co.uk

Angela Woods

Angela Woods is an Associate Professor of Medical Humanities at Durham University and Co-Director of Hearing the Voice, a major international research project on the experience of voice-hearing funded by the Wellcome Trust. Originally trained in literary and cultural studies, her research draws on concepts, methods and insights from the arts and humanities to develop interdisciplinary approaches to the study of psychosis, working closely with experts by experience and clinicians in the North-East. Angela received the 2017 Intervoice Research Award in recognition of her research on identity and shame and her role in the world’s first exhibition on voice-hearing: Hearing Voices: Suffering, Inspiration and the Everyday. Before moving to the UK, she was Chair of the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne, Australi

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