Monica

Monica was born and raised in London, with parents who had moved from Nigeria to study in the UK in the late 1970s. In her interview, Monica discusses her journey into healthcare – progressing from a mental health nurse to a psychotherapist. She also discusses the value of having black people working in the mental health field.

Early life and Childhood

Growing up, I was born in South London - and in Clapham - I think, some hospital that used to be in Clapham. I grew up in East London, and I somehow found myself around the city in my teens.


No. So, they settled it in South London for about 10 years, but I think it was just, we never settled really. So, we just moved around. So, we found ourselves everywhere. I think based on what they could afford, where they could live.


My mum or dad actually came to study in the UK, so that would have been. My parents came from Nigeria and they came to the UK in the late 70s. Mum eventually came to study. I think she came for her masters at that point, I, my dad was also coming to do his master's, it was very common for people to come purely to study at that point.


Racism

So, I think that's it sounds like that's two questions in one really. And the reason I say that is - Challenges? Plenty of. Overcoming challenges - I'm not sure of. And so, challenges as an African woman or somebody of African background, I guess, you know, around just breaking perceptions and stereotypes really, and I guess facing discrimination in many ways, biases, and just really working to challenge people's unconscious biases that they'd have.


African Community in Britain and Identity

We've lost a certain generation - my grandparents - people that I would have been familiar with.


So I as a youngster, yes. We were taken back quite often. Certainly not in my adult life. I haven't been back to Nigeria. And reason being there's a sense that everybody's around me now.


And that was one of my earliest memories of Nigeria - just happiness, you know - and people just sense of, you know, community. People cared about you, you know, neighbours looked forward to you coming and so just random people that you probably didn't know but knew of you and that felt special.


Health career

So, I began my training in 2004. And I trained at King's College. And I yeah, so I started in 2004. I completed my training in 2007.


It felt like a very natural progression into healthcare. I'm the first of four children. And the thing about being born into a Nigerian family is you assume the caring role. From day one, particularly as a first child: the concept of being told it's your responsibility to take care of your younger ones. It's almost like a designated role.


I think it was - it was certainly for me it was pretty easy. And I think my background as a mental health nurse really helped me in psychiatry as a psychotherapist rather. And that's because certainly as a mental health nurse, I had a knowledge of of medical part of treating mental health problems. I also had the experience of of, you know, again, medication and acute presentations.


I currently work as a psychotherapist and I moved away from psychiatric nursing about 10 years ago. So, I've always worked with the same work in psychiatry.


I think certainly one of the most significant highlights is the opportunity to work with BME groups. Psychotherapy has usually been something that hasn't been easily accessible. And so, I think working within a service that was very much focused on improving access to psychological therapies and really trying to get as many people accessing therapy was felt very inspiring for me.


Activism

And so I was always proactive, bringing things up talking about things or at least acknowledging things, even if we feel nothing will be done. And so in terms of the community, that certainly one of the things that I was proactively, always doing within any role. Just speaking about these challenges that were faced, more so as a psychotherapist, because again, there are very few BME women in psychotherapy. It's very much about the opportunities that are afforded to us.