University of Worcester Professor Awarded OBE in King’s Birthday Honours

Jo Smith - photo credit Tom Ward
Professor Jo Smith - photo courtesy of Tom Ward

Professor Jo Smith is a Professor of Early Intervention and Psychosis, who has dedicated her working life to tackling serious mental health problems, particularly in young people and more recently, student suicide in particular.

Her extensive expertise, along with her compassionate and collaborative approach have earned Jo an outstanding international reputation in her field. Her work in the NHS and HE has had regional, national and international impact.

On being appointed an OBE, she said: “I was shocked and touched to have been nominated and awarded an OBE. I have worked for 34 years in the NHS and 10 years in Higher Education, and this marks a stage in my career that I never imagined I would achieve. This OBE reflects many years of collaborative teamwork and support from many colleagues locally and nationally to achieve the progress that has been made around both Early Intervention in Psychosis services and student suicide prevention.”

Jo’s campaigning and awareness raising work has helped to tackle stigma and signpost to available support, while her education and training work has improved staff and student mental health literacy and skills, embedding mental health training into teaching curricula.

She has led on a number of national and international projects to help universities and other educational settings take a targeted and inclusive approach to student suicide prevention. She was the lead on the University of Worcester’s successful ‘Suicide Safer’ multi-agency initiative, bringing together University colleagues with local statutory and third sector organisations in a co-ordinated approach to student suicide prevention. Since its inception, the initiative has delivered extensive training opportunities, awareness raising, and research, leading to improved student support at Worcester and beyond.

Professor David Green CBE DL, the University’s Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive said: “Professor Jo Smith has conducted and led high impact, deeply insightful leadership and research in the field of suicide prevention for many years. The early intervention approach she championed in Worcestershire saved many lives. Over the past decade her work in suicide student prevention led to the publication of the first ever book in this field, the development of a new national strategy and has saved many more young lives in particular. This national honour for Jo is truly deserved.”

Having qualified as a Clinical Psychologist in 1981, Jo worked extensively in the NHS, in both primary care and secondary mental health services. She established Early Intervention in Psychosis Services in Worcestershire In 2002 and was a national lead supporting early intervention service development across England, Wales and several other countries internationally. She is currently a national clinical advisor to the NCAP audit of early intervention in psychosis services across England, Wales and Ireland. In 2015, Jo was invited to co facilitate an international summit of healthcare leaders and policy makers from 13 countries to develop an International Declaration and Social Movement on Zero Suicide. She has co-authored a number of publications, including the Atlanta (2016) 'Zero Suicide International Declaration for Better Healthcare' and ‘Preventing and Responding to Student Suicide - A Practical Guide for FE and HE Settings’, published in 2021, which is the first book to specifically deal with student suicide prevention in the FE and HE sectors.

Jo was a member of a small national advisory group which developed and produced a 'Suicide Safer Universities' Toolkit published by UUK and PAPYRUS in 2018 and co-authored and edited recent guidance on postvention which introduced a serious incident review process to learn from and prevent future deaths called ‘How to Respond to a Student Suicide’ published by UUK, PAPYRUS and Samaritans in December 2022. Jo has been an invited as a keynote presenter at over 200 conferences in the UK and internationally.