Last month, many academics and researchers celebrated Black History Month. It is well known that Black History Month is particularly relevant in psychology due to a number of long-standing biases in psychological research and clinical practise, which are important to acknowledge.
Across the next two posts, EDIT Lab member Hollie Hymas interviews Stella Ogunlade, who works with individuals experiencing eating disorders at a clinic in Yorkshire, England, and has kindly agreed to discuss her contributions to the field. In the first post, Stella describes her journey into psychology; from migrating from Nigeria to the UK at the age of 8 to receiving a Psychology degree from the University of Bristol at the age of 20 and starting her career. In the second post, Stella gives her perspective on being a black woman in the field of clinical psychology and how this has affected her experiences.
1)Would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
Hello, my name is Gbemisola Stella Ogunlade. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and was raised there until the age of 8 before moving to the UK. Assimilating into the culture and custom of the British norm was not easy; I was teased for my accent and for being ‘too dark’ even from my own race. I didn’t realise it at the time, but those comments were slowly eating into my self-esteem and self-worth.
During the first few years in the UK, my parents’ relationship ended and I lost contact with my dad. It was a challenging time, as my mum was unable to support us financially. She was barely managing to look after herself following the breakdown of our family. We ended up becoming homeless during my GCSE period. As a single mother with four children, my mum had no option but to seek support from the social services. We were placed in a temporary hostel with other single mothers and their children. Additionally, we didn’t have the right to remain in the UK at the time and I felt lost and unsettled. I decided to take my education seriously at the end of year 10 and was studying profusely for my GCSEs. I wanted to succeed in order to make my mum proud. I managed to obtain decent grades and decided to stay at Brampton Manor Academy for sixth form. We had amazing teachers and driven students, though it constantly felt like a competition. Despite this, I was enjoying learning and had a strong affinity for sciences, particularly biology, and psychology. When I began considering universities to apply to I found that, with my immigration status, I was ineligible for student finance as I was classed as an international student. I felt lost and unsure about my options. In my journey to the UK, feeling lost felt like a common theme.
I soon realised that I could choose between three possible avenues. The first was to give up on pursuing higher education and find a job until I was eligible for financial support from the government. This was my last resort if all else failed. The second option was to apply to a one-year foundation programme at Oxford university. Although not ideal this meant I could still study Psychology at a higher level. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful at the interview process. Therefore, my final option was to apply to the sanctuary scholarship programme at the University of Bristol. This was a programme for students in my situation and provided both the tuition fees and living expenses. I gave my all to the application process. I also had an amazing mentor who supported me with practicing interviews and provided tips and techniques. I felt confident and well-prepared on the day of the interview and by God’s grace, I was successful. I am currently working as an Assistant Psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service Community eating disorders service within an NHS Trust. I am also a board member for the DOST Centre for Young Refugees and Migrants, a registered charity supporting young refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. I am grateful for my journey thus far however, this is only the start. I am still fighting mentally and physically each day to overcome the challenges and obstacles that got in my way as I worked towards becoming a Clinical Psychologist.
2) Why did you want to study and work in Psychology?
I became interested in Psychology during my sixth form studies and was immediately fascinated by the experimental studies and theoretical ideas proposed by prominent psychologists and philosophers. I am a deep thinker and have always asked questions. What makes humans different from other organisms? What is consciousness? Why do we exist on this earth? Psychology provides a space to explore these complex questions and to combine great minds to understand the human race. The fact that there is no single answer to these questions encouraged me to reflect on my own personal experiences and understanding of the world.
My final year Psychology dissertation investigated the impact of health warning messages on alcoholic beverages on consumers’ attitudes and risk perception. This was important research as I wanted to identify a behavioural change intervention that could help raise people’s awareness of the health risks associated with alcohol. This is a further reason why I enjoy Psychology: you can make a real change in society via psychological interventions.
I find that often people underestimate the role of psychology and the complexities of the field. However, psychology is ubiquitous in society and research studies are now becoming more scientifically rigorous and are using robust statistical analyses.