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Psychology has a whole new cast of political characters to work with


I thought, last week, that the political world could not get any more turbulent. But events in the South of France, in the USA, in Turkey, and even here in the UK, proved me wrong.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the importance of leaders in civic society - including the British Psychological Society - stepping forwards in the confusion and, frankly, vacuum of detailed policy-making post Brexit. We’ve previously spoken out on the dangers of xenophobic and hate-filled speech and on the psychological factors associated with flawed political decision-making.

All these issues seem to grow in importance each week. Of course, psychology as a discipline and a profession overlap with others. Sociologists, anthropologists and ethnographers all study society as much as do psychologists. Historians, especially political and military historians, have perspectives that overlap with, inform and are informed by, psychology.

Psephologists and political geographers analyse the human factors associated with political decision-making and survey the views of the voting public. And, of course, since political decisions impact upon all of us in our professional activity, all professions have legitimate interests.

So it’s important to remember that the psychological perspective should accompany other, equally valid, perspectives. We are, as has been said before, stronger together. And it is important that professions and disciplines act in unity. We aren’t the only professional and academic body active in this area - but we are, as you would expect, active.

I am delighted that the BPS is central to discussions by the Academy of Social Sciences (representing, of course, the social sciences) and Science Council (representing the more physical sciences) in their discussions about UK science and professional activity post Brexit. I’m also delighted to have been a co-signatory to an open letter to the new UK prime minister, asking her to confirm the previous government’s commitment to mental health and to ‘parity of esteem’ in the provision of services.

This reshuffle has not produced the dedicated cabinet minister for mental health that we had been calling for, but the release of the NHS ‘Implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health’ plan just a few days into the new cabinet suggests it is still high on the agenda.

We’ve got a whole new cast of political characters to work with and we will be working hard over the coming months to introduce our Society to them and explain the value that psychology can bring to their policies and to the way they make their decisions.