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Kevin Yates
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Dr Kevin Yates 1961-2024

A tribute from Esther Cohen-Tovee, Roger Paxton and Emily Lennie.

28 February 2024

The Psychology community in the North-East of England and beyond has been shocked and greatly saddened by the untimely death of Kevin Yates in January 2024. Numerous former colleagues and friends have paid tribute to Kevin, sharing memories and speaking of his clinical expertise, his compassion and humour, his larger-than-life personality. His loss is felt keenly.

Kevin retired from his NHS career (which followed an earlier career in the Royal Marines) in December 2020. He drafted some notes for use at his retirement event, which emphasise how he drew on his own lived experience throughout his career. He wrote:

"One thing that I have always been proud of, and something that I tell some of the older kids that I work with (as a way of instilling hope and optimism for young people who find themselves unable to engage with school and education) is that I left school with no qualifications. I couldn’t wait to leave school when I was 16, and I then worked as a Shop Assistant in a men’s clothes shop (Foster Brothers) until I joined the Royal Marines aged 19. It was only when I looked at my future career options when coming to the end of 12 years’ service in the Royal Marines that I decided to pursue Clinical Psychology."

Kevin began to study with the Open University, obtained a 2:1 in Psychology at Durham University and then trained as a Clinical Psychologist at Newcastle University, qualifying in 2001 with a distinction. Kevin’s first qualified job was a split post in Northumberland between Assertive Outreach and Primary Care, and Kevin completed his CBT Diploma whilst in this job. But his heart was always with children and families with the hope of making a difference early-on in people’s lives, and he moved to a job in CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) in Northumberland in 2002. Throughout his career, he moved around various CAMHS services in Gateshead, Sunderland, and then ultimately back to Northumberland.

Kevin was inspired by the head of the Sunderland Psychology Department Consultant Clinical Psychologist PO Svanberg early in his psychology career, and sustained and further developed a life-long interest in the consequences of early abuse and neglect, and attachment-informed theories and therapies. With the help and support of Consultant Clinical Psychologist Jessica Brown, he developed significant expertise in that field. Kevin and Jessica then started an Expert Witness service in Northumberland, and he went on to become a Registered Expert Witness in Child Protection with the BPS. He was commissioned independently by the courts over the years to carry out Expert Witness reports.

Much of Kevin’s work was with Looked After and Adopted children. Kevin described this time as truly multi-disciplinary and thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying. He was a member of a healthy and vibrant Special Interest Group that spanned the Scottish Borders down to Yorkshire and across to South Cumbria. The later part of his career was as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist in North Northumberland Children & Young Peoples’ Mental Health Services, where his clinical expertise and support for colleagues continued to be highly valued, though the demands of the new service model were a challenge for Kevin and many of his colleagues. Kevin wrote:

“It has been and continues to be a long, uphill struggle to try to re-build what was previously well-established and, as we see now, well-needed; we still have some way to go to get back to where we were back then. Re-inventing Psychological Services for Looked-After Children has been a big part of my life and work over the last decade or so ever since CAMHS was “re-imagined”.

Outside work, Kevin enjoyed music and singing, he was a member of a church choir for many years. He was also a talented actor, appearing many times on the amateur stage. After his retirement Kevin was able to spend more time on many of his other interests including sailing, and spent some time in Spain and Bermuda.

At an event we organised to pay tribute to Kevin, I (ECT) shared that I had thought he resembled the actor Daniel Craig (I mentioned this to Kevin soon after first meeting him), but whereas the latter is known for his portrayal of the heroic James Bond on the silver screen, Kevin was a real life hero. I was surprised and very pleased to hear from colleagues that this observation of mine had meant a great deal to Kevin, and he had often brought it up subsequently.

Kevin was knowledgeable, warm, kind, funny, passionate, and charismatic, and is a significant loss to very many people, both within and outside of Psychology and mental health services.

He is survived by his daughters Aggi and Maddy.