Honouring Professor Frederick Hickling
With great sadness, we mourn the passing of our dear friend and colleague Frederick Hickling, who died in Kingston, Jamaica on the evening of May 7 after a sudden illness. He was a giant in the global movements for deinstitutionalization, community mental health and cultural psychiatry. Although much of his work was centred in Jamaica, he trained with Morris Carstairs in Edinburgh, and later worked in New Zealand and in the north of England, where he was deeply influenced by his colleagues, by Fanon, and by the political realization of a free Jamaica, which fueled his optimism and conviction of the constructive role that mental health and the arts could play in social change and human flourishing.
Fred had boundless intellectual energy and creativity—advocating, researching and educating on many fronts to develop a transformative postcolonial psychiatry that addressed what he viewed as “decolonizing the psyche” in a post-slavery era still struggling with the social pathologies borne of centuries of structural violence. With Fred, this transformation began as a medical student, when as stage manager for Jamaica’s National Dance Theatre, he was mentored by Rex Nettleford (later Chancellor of University of the West Indies), planting the seeds for his later development of the psychohistoriographic approach to healing and the use of art for healing and social change. Fred was a fearless in calling out racism, social injustice, and hypocrisy and fighting to counter the depredations of inequality wherever he found them.
He did path-breaking work in Jamaica, developing community psychiatry, using theatre, radio and the arts to bring the voices of patients at Bellevue Hospital to wider awareness, and integrating psychiatry into medicine and primary care. At McGill, with Jaswant Guzder and Duncan Pederson, we were privileged to work with him in recent years, as he developed the extraordinary Dream-a-World resilience model for promoting mental health among children in Jamaica. He was focussed on building vehicles to carry this work forward, developing CARIMENSA with his wife Hilary Hickling and an active research team, teaching and applying his Cultural Therapy and Psychohistoriographical Group Work approaches internationally. He taught for many years in our annual summer program in social and cultural psychiatry, where his passion, integrity, creativity, and commitment to social justice were an inspiration to students from around the world.
His loss is a grievous blow to our international community. We hope to build on his his legacy in future work in mental health promotion, and plan to establish a scholarship in his name for students from the Caribbean to attend our annual summer program, and a thematic issue of Transcultural Psychiatry in his honour.
Laurence. J. Kirmayer
Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry
The McGill Global Mental Health Program (GMHP) is a multidisciplinary research and training hub based at the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry of the Department of Psychiatry. The program is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and action research on mental health disparities around the world, especially in low- and middle income countries (LMIC).
GMHP promotes a multi-disciplinary research agenda with a particular focus on bringing the social science’s perspectives to bear on the understanding and response to mental health problems internationally. Building on McGill’s longstanding tradition in cultural psychiatry and the university’s excellent mental health research community, the Global Mental Health Program creates a collaborative space and training environment through,