A common question often asked of psychologists is ‘what inspired you to become a psychologist?’. This is certainly a question I have had asked and one I have pondered many times. For some the answer to this derives from childhood, a burning passion they have held for a long time, or a moment in their formative years that set them on this journey. For me this simply wasn’t the case. I often wished I could give a more meaningful answer to that question, as my journey has been one of discovery and exploration after stumbling across this career in my early 20’s rather than a path that felt pre-determined in my psyche.
But a moment that does stand out for me was early in my career, after I had joined the prison service and had achieved the much longed after Trainee Psychologist role. At the start of my career, I was introduced to the suite of offending behaviour programmes developed and delivered within the Prison Service. During these early days, a name I regularly heard being banded around was that of Dr Ruth Mann. Who is she I thought? Why is everyone talking about her so much and quoting her work? I soon learnt she was a Psychologist who was pivotal in the justice system for her research and development of treatment for offenders, particularly sex offenders. I started reading her work and became more and more intrigued about this woman, who was evidently so passionate about the ethical and effective treatment of section of society who were often viewed as the ‘lowest of the low’ by many.
I will always recall the first time I encountered Dr Mann, at a training event where she was the key speaker. She walked on stage and she was nothing like what I had imagined in my mind (I realised in that moment I had preconceived ideas about people who conducted research; ashamedly). Stood in front of me was a vibrant, young, stylish woman who was also one of the most intelligent, grounded people I had ever heard speak. I remember being in total awe of her and thinking ‘now that is what I want to be like as a psychologist!’ She was so passionate about treatment and the approach we should take when working to rehabilitate offenders, balancing theory, science and research with the human element of compassion, understanding and kindness. She had a great skill of promoting her ideas, without this feeling forced or imposing. She epitomised hope and courage to make a difference, to help, to make a change. She certainly made a big impression on me that day.
So, it was with immense sadness when I heard the news that she had died recently. Whilst I didn’t know Dr Mann personally, I think the news of her passing has felt so significant because of the profound and meaningful influence she has had over the years to build and promote rehabilitative culture and procedural justice. Her moral leadership, passion and belief in change was for me the definition of inspiration.
So, in future, if anyone ever asks me what led me to be a psychologist, whilst I still don’t have the narrative of ‘I just knew it was my destiny’, I can recall to them that day I saw Dr Mann speak and her overwhelming influence on my journey and approach from that point on.
Rest in Peace Dr Ruth Mann.