Professor Swaran Singh, MD FRCPsych DM
Tuesday 19 June 2007
Swaran Singh is Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry.
Professor Singh trained as a psychiatrist at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, India before moving to the UK in 1991. He was a lecturer and consultant at Nottingham and in 2001 moved to St George’s University of London as senior lecturer in psychiatry. There he developed the ETHOS early intervention service (Early Treatment and Home-based Outreach Service) which gained an international reputation for its success in improving outcomes for young people with psychosis and its cost-effective use of resources.
He headed the Section of Serious Mental Illness Research at St George’s and chaired the London Mental Health Research and Development (LoMRH&D) network. In 2006, he joined the University of Warwick as Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry and consultant psychiatrist for the East Birmingham Early Intervention Service. He has published widely in his areas of interest which include epidemiology, onset and outcomes of early psychosis, culture and ethnicity in mental health, health services evaluation, mental health law, medical education and continuity of care.
Swaran’s interest in mental health arose from his involvement in human rights groups working for children traumatised in ethnic violence. Early on he became interested in social risk and protective factors in mental illness, especially in the high rates of psychosis in certain ethnic minority groups. This has long been considered as evidence of racism in the UK. However there are several credible alternative explanations including social exclusion, trauma, family breakdown, social isolation and drug use for which ethnicity operates as a proxy. Simplistic explanations for such intricate disorders are not only erroneous; these also hamper the search for complex causal influences.
Psychiatry is in the privileged position of being astride boundaries: medical and sociological models of illness; mind and brain; conception of normal and abnormal; and medicine and art, which give it unique clinical and research perspectives. In his lecture, Swaran will explore how biomedical and psychosocial conceptions of mental illness are complementary rather than in opposition and demonstrate that combining such perspectives offers a better understanding of mental illness than the supposed conflict between empirical and sociological approaches.