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A new patron for Families in Grief

Local childhood bereavement charity, Families in Grief (FiG),  has appointed a prestigious new patron.

Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke is currently Professor of Developmental Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Kings College London and visiting Professor at the Universities of Aarhus (Denmark) and Hong Kong. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and is an elected Fellow of the British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

As a developmental psychologist, Professor Sonuga-Barke has dedicated his career to the scientific study of the causes of young people’s mental health difficulties with a special focus on early adversity and neuro-developmental conditions such as ADHD.

“We are hugely excited to welcome Professor Sonuga-Barke as our new patron,” says Naomi Jefferies, CEO of Families in Grief.  “We all know that being bereaved as a young person can have a devastating effect.  Many children and young people struggle to process and understand their feelings of grief which can lead to disengagement from school, family, friends and the wider community. Without timely support, this can have a truly negative impact on a young person’s overall mental health and future life chances.

Post-pandemic we have also seen a marked increase in the complexity of cases referred to us for bereavement support – so we feel doubly privileged to know that our work going forward will benefit from the guidance and experience of our new patron. Welcome Edmund!”

Professor Sonuga-Barke describes himself as a husband (to Funke) and dad (to Julien and Pascale), soul music nut and an ever-optimistic Rams fan!

He says: “I feel very honoured to be Patron of FiG and to  have the chance to support its fantastic work for bereaved children and families.  I hope that both my research and personal experiences can be of some value to the charity. For instance, a substantial part of my research work has illustrated the power of early adversity to shape human emotional, social and cognitive development across the life-span through its deep seated effects on the brain, while at the same time showing what families can do to bring about positive change. My work on neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD and autism is also relevant, I feel, in showing how traumatic events are processed and reacted to differently by different sorts of people. I think this is a very understudied topic.

Like all scientists my work is informed by my personal experiences. I am certain that the fact that I was diagnosed with hyperkinetic syndrome (the forerunner of ADHD) and dyslexia as a child has influenced my scientific thinking about these conditions. I also have first-hand experience of grief following the death of my sister as a young woman and more recently my mother.  I have also seen the devastating impact that consecutive, unsupported childhood bereavements have had on a close childhood friend.  This insight has made me value the important role that organisations, such as Families in Grief, play by providing the right support when families are at their most vulnerable. I’m thrilled to taking up this role as their patron and championing their cause.”

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