Professor Gail Mountain, FRCOT Sheffield and Bradford Universities
I was honoured to be invited to give the Casson Lecture in Eastbourne in 2005.
The title of my paper was the dictionary definition of ‘Challenge:’ that is to Confront, Defy, Face up to; a Difficulty that Stimulates Interest of Effort. Being asked to return to this lecture after so many years and write a blog has been a good experience, particularly as I am coming to the end of my working life. I must admit that I was surprised at some of the content such as the details that I had obtained of Dr Casson’s life. I was reminded once again of the real contribution that my profession can make and why she envisioned this around 100 years ago. Hopefully some of my thoughts will have resonance for those of you taking the time to read this.
In 2004/5 the responsibility associated with being asked to deliver this annual lecture was not lost on me and I spent a good period of time researching our founder Dr Elizabeth Casson. I was able to access archives from the Royal College of Psychiatrists and what I discovered was a woman who had carved out a very successful career in psychiatry in the 1920’s. This in itself was a remarkable achievement given that, at the time, the majority of women of her class were not expected to take paid work outside the home. This led me on to consider what had given her the impetus to create and support a new profession. Was it the carnage of the 1stworld war, the emergent common ideas regarding the importance of occupation being discussed in both Scotland and America, a combination of both or some other force?
Dr Elizabeth Casson was from a privileged background and subsequently made significant personal investment to establish occupational therapy in our country. How her family might have reacted to the idea of having to financially support such a venture, and over the long term, is interesting to consider. I still wonder what drove her on despite the challenges; if only it were possible to ask her such questions.
It was truly fascinating stuff and led me on to consider what this significant legacy really means for our profession. I had not thought deeply about this before being asked to present the lecture despite having heard the Casson story many times. For my lecture I decided to position my thoughts within what I considered to be the contemporary issues for occupational therapy in the first decade of the Millennium. I also decided to use my research which had been wholeheartedly informed by occupational therapy and was beginning to receive more substantial funding at the time.
Having recounted the legacy I then discussed the challenges that people can face as they age and the significant contribution that occupational therapy can make. I described how I had commenced work with Claire Craig to create a UK version of the work inspired by Florence Clarke and other occupational therapy academics at the University of Southern California. They had been working to identify what constituted a good later life in Los Angeles and had created and tested a programme called Lifestyle Redesign which many of you will be familiar with.