Royal College of Psychiatrists appoints comms chief

Bex Couper has been promoted to the role of director of strategic communications at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, taking over from Kim Catcheside, PRWeek has learned.

Bex Couper, strategic director of comms at the Royal College of Psychiatrists
Bex Couper, strategic director of comms at the Royal College of Psychiatrists

Couper, who has been the head of external affairs at the college for the past five years, starts her new role next month.

She will report to Paul Rees, the organisation's chief executive, and will lead its work on policy and campaigns, external affairs, publishing and digital.

Couper is tasked with ensuring that the college is the voice for psychiatry and mental health services across the UK, and has a positive reputation, high profile and extensive level of influence with decision-makers and opinion-formers.

Priorities

She told PRWeek: “The main communication priority is parity of esteem or in simple terms the fight for fair funding. Mental illness represents up to 23% of the total burden of ill health in the UK but only 11% of NHS England’s budget.”

Couper added: “I’d love to address the stigma that still surrounds serious mental health and lack of dignity for the way mental health patients are treated; I don’t know of any other medical treatment where patients are sent miles away from home to get the care they need.”

Other priorities in her new role include comms work around workforce wellbeing; sustainability; equality, diversity and inclusion; and recruitment and retention.

Career history

Couper started out in broadcast journalism, and spent more than a decade at the BBC, where she worked on BBC Newsnight for seven years. 

In 2011 she switched to comms, with a job as a media officer at Carers UK. She moved to the Department for International Development, where she was a senior press officer. 

Other government department and charity stints included senior external comms officer at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; senior campaign manager at the Department for Education; comms manager at Arthritis Research UK; and media and comms manager at Drinkaware.

In 2017 Couper joined the Royal College of Psychiatrists as head of external affairs.


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