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Thursday, 04 November 2021

‘I feel like I’ve been given a voice’ – mental health worker Kojo Bonsu reflects on conversation with David Harewood

‘I feel like I’ve been given a voice’ – mental health worker Kojo Bonsu reflects on conversation with David Harewood

Actor David Harewood MBE joined Kojo Bonsu, a peer involvement worker at South West London and George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, for a special event organised by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) during Black History Month.

The webinar on Wednesday 20 October, which was chaired by Catherine Gamble, Associate Director of Nursing Education at the Trust and RCN Fellow, saw David in conversation with Kojo and Simon Arday, a mental health nurse at King’s College Hospital, about what it means to be a person of colour navigating the mental health system.

The event also saw a discussion about how to support Black mental health nurses to progress into senior leadership positions.

The webinar coincided with the release of David’s new book Maybe I don't belong here: A Memoir of Race, Identity, Breakdown and Recovery, in which David recounts his experience of being treated for psychosis in his early 20s.

Reflecting on the event, Kojo said: “We discussed our own personal experiences, but we also covered solutions and ideas for improving how Black people experience mental health services – including what nurses and mental health staff can do to make a difference.”

Kojo, who works in the involvement team based at Springfield Hospital, uses his own experience as a patient to encourage patients and service users to get involved in the planning and development of the Trust’s services.

“Involvement is about making sure that our services are led and shaped by the people best placed to know what works: people who use mental health services, their carers, family and friends.” said Kojo.

“Now that I’m part of the involvement team, I feel like I’ve been given a voice. I enjoy listening to others and taking what they say to help bring about positive change.”

On how taking part in the event and speaking to David made him feel, Kojo said: “It felt really comforting to know that people cared enough to listen. It shows there is genuine concern about the issues that are close to my heart. It also made me realise I’m not alone.”

Kojo added: “At the event, David gave some advice to nurses and mental health staff. He said ‘rather than be dismissive, offer genuine care and compassion to the person you’re treating’. This really resonated with me. I had a difficult time trying to access help when I needed it. I was hoping to receive compassion at the time but I didn’t find it.”

Catherine Gamble said: “Mental health nurses make up the largest and most diverse professional group within the mental health workforce. But like those with serious mental illnesses, Black nurses rarely get the chance to share their narrative or service change ideas at a national level.

“The event touched on what more can be done to enable Black nurses into senior leadership positions. This includes initiatives like the Trust’s BAME leadership programme, funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, which was set up to offer development opportunities.”

The webinar is available to watch on the RCN's website here: Previous events | Library | Royal College of Nursing (


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