THERE was a familiar face in the audience when Simon Darnley, a cognitive behavioural therapist, visited the college to talk to Level 3 Health and Social Care students about mental health issues and current treatments available.

Simon, pictured, is head of the Anxiety Disorders Residential Unit at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and manages the day-to-day running of the unit and its overall clinical programme.

He recently featured in a Channel 4 documentary, Bedlam, in which the world’s oldest psychiatric institution opened its doors to challenge the myths, taboos and stigma around mental illness in Britain today.

His son Jack is a current health and social care student at BCoT, and attended the session to hear his dad speaking.

During the session, Simon asked learners many questions about their own experiences of mental health.

They were very responsive and interested in the treatments for OCD and anxiety disorders.

In turn, the students quizzed Simon about many aspects of his work, including cognitive behavioural therapy, NHS funding for specific treatments and how referrals are made to his unit.

Amanda Staplehurst, placement officer at BCoT, who arranged the session, said the students found Simon’s talk inspiring and really informative, giving them a real insight into the working practices of mental health.

She said: “I am so grateful that Simon gave up his time to come along and talk to our students about the many issues surrounding mental health. It gave them an opportunity to discuss current treatment programmes and gain insight into the day-to-day workings of a mental health unit.

“Sessions like these are invaluable to our students as it enables them to contextualise their learning.

“An expert like Simon literally brings their classroom studies to life and gives a clearer under-standing of the units taught on their course.”