Thursday 29th April. Rhona Morrison, " ‘ No, I don’t talk to dead bodies’... a Message of Hope".
RHONA MORRISON: FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST
The title of forensic psychiatrist Rhona Morrison’s talk “No - I don’t talk to dead bodies” intrigued Club members who had speculated as to what a forensic psychiatrist actually does, and what had led Rhona to choose that as a career. Rhona said that as a child she had been very keen on art, but having a sister with learning difficulties inspired her to opt for a caring profession, leading to her studying medicine at Glasgow University. Rhona’s intention initially was to be a psychiatrist working with those with learning disabilities. However, training as a junior doctor in psychiatry, she decided to specialise in forensic psychiatry, and subsequently joined the staff of NHS Forth Valley where she worked as a consultant forensic psychiatrist for some 22 years.
Rhona explained that, broadly speaking, her role as a forensic psychiatrist concerned the assessment and treatment of criminal behaviour. This involved working with those already in prison, and with those in the community who had mental health problems that could potentially lead them into criminal behaviour. In these instances, she was regularly preparing expert reports for courts, for parole boards and mental health tribunals. But, as Rhona explained, she was also heavily involved in developing research-based evidence leading to the development of policy and improved working practices. As Associate Medical Director for Psychiatry, Rhona established a dedicated Forensic Community Mental Health Service team, the first in Scotland, which worked in Cornton Vale and other prisons in Scotland to provide a comprehensive monitoring of mental health and links to patterns of behaviour. The challenge was to seek improvements in care that would allow ‘patients to bloom and grow’.
Just before her retirement, Rhona became a carer for her husband. After his death, and at a loss what to do, she decided to return to her first love: art. She built a studio in the garden and began to paint. Her work was successful, leading in due course to sales and, subsequently, to commissions, often for pet portraits. As she described it herself, she ‘blundered into business’. However, she said: ‘there was something missing in my life’. That gap was to be filled when she joined Forsyth Rotary Club. Her energies turned to raising money for the End Polio campaign. To that end, she designed Message of Hope cards which to date have raised £2,000, to which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has added £4,000. These cards can be viewed at, and obtained from, www.rhonamorrison.com. Rhona has also completed her memoir that she hopes will soon be published.
Giving the vote of thanks, Russell Clark said that Rhona had given a fascinating account that had led to a much better understanding and appreciation of her work as a forensic psychiatrist.
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