Compiled by Audrey Beaton in 1990
Dr Lomax-Simpson came from an upper middle class background (see: Grandfather and Parents) where there was no need for her to embark on a career or enter one of the professions. Medicine was her choice from an early age and she had to overcome family opposition in order to achieve her goal. Academic study was not easy and although she had travelled widely, her sheltered background made university and hospital life an unfamiliar area within which to gain experience of life and the medical profession.
Qualifying as a doctor in 1948 and specialising in Psychiatry in 1953, Dr. Lomax-Simpson's medical career has included a considerable amount of experience in child psychiatry, working with delinquents and exploring the problems associated with single parent families. Because she has always focused on a positive attitude towards mental health as opposed to mental illness she was quick to appreciate the role of Community Psychiatry within society. Starting from her work as a psycho-analyst treating people at an individual level, Dr Lomax-Simpson recognised the need for individual people to develop a capacity to interact as members of society - ("No man's an island"). Consequently she developed additional skills within the field of group psychotherapy as practised by the Institute of Group Analysis based an the theories of Dr S.H. Foulkes. Since 1976 Dr Lomax-Simpson has developed her techniques as a Convenor of Large Groups and has convened regular Large Groups of upward of 30 people on a weekly basis in a therapeutic community, a National Health Day Hospital and latterly on a Council Estate in Wallington, Surrey.
Dr Lomax-Simpson's on-going concern for the young patients she had treated whilst a psychiatrist for fourteen years with the Greater London Council, caused her to open her own home in Wimbledon from 1963 onwards to a multitude of young people who needed shelter and support. In 1970 she established the Messenger House Trust to provide accommodation for single young mothers and their babies to help them establish bonding in a stable environment prior to being re-housed in society. During the next seventeen years the project grew from having a single house to having at one time nine houses. Over 400 young people - including not only single young parents but also young men needing support and a home were welcomed into the organisation. For the first nine years, Messenger House Trust had no full-time staff, Dr Lomax-Simpson using her skills to train and organise volunteers whilst she remained therapeutic adviser and continued her full-time career as a psychotherapist. As the Trust grew, residents were referred mainly through Social Services in London and the Home Counties, but they also came on a country-wide basis. Administrative costs were kept at a minimum, Dr Lomax-Simpson believing that people should give 10% of either their time or money towards those less fortunate. Friends, neighbours and people in the local community and the local churches were all asked to become involved.
Initially the focus of the project was the Sunday meal which took place at Dr Lomax-Simpson's own residence - this was the meeting place for all those involved. The venue of the meal then moved to the first Messenger Trust House where it gave way to the first formal small group meetings. Here problems were discussed and solved as a 'family concern'. In 1975 the small groups became a regular feature of each individual house in the Trust and the focus shifted to the Weekly Large Group convened by Dr Lomax-Simpson once a week and consisting of the residents, their social workers, the Trust Voluntary Workers and other interested parties. Within this forum the basics of a therapeutic community developed as young people took the opportunity of developing their social skills and their confidence among their peer group and the local community.
In 1977 the Hutchinson Settlement was founded by Dr Lomax-Simpson as a 'sister trust' for students who needed accommodation and were also interested in the Messenger House Project. During the next nine years, over 75 young people who were training in the professions - including doctors, teachers and social workers became an integral part of this community. Visitors also came from abroad and participated in the Large Group.
During the period the Messenger House Trust and Hutchinson Settlement existed - from 1970 to 1987, Dr Lomax-Simpson gave an incalculable amount of her professional expertise, her time and her own personal wealth for the benefit of the young people whom she had either known for many years or were residents of Messenger House Trust. As her 60th birthday approached and realising the project had no successor she was also able to recognise that its future lay with a larger organisation. Consequently the Leonard Cheshire Foundation were approached and arrangements made with the local Organisation to absorb the houses and residents who still required ongoing support.
As a social project and an exploration into Community Psychiatry the Messenger House Trust covered a great deal of ground. Many of the individual residents who participated had already been damaged in the family or through the experience of a Children Home. Because the small family sized houses within the Messenger House Trust had no wardens they were able to discover the secrets of living as a member of a 'family' within a stable environment. Someone was also available if things went wrong - and this did happen, but people could learn and grow as a result. Within the community they could develop as individuals and within the Large Group they could savour not only the responsibilities of 'belonging' but the security this brought with it. For some it remained after they had left the Trust and kept in contact or returned to visit the Large Group afterwards.
From the early 1960s onwards, Dr. Lomax-Simpson has used every opportunity to share and develop her ideas through her own writing and speaking at Conferences etc. Over twenty of her eighty Papers written on various aspects of her work have been published in professional journals. She has presented Papers at Professional Conferences in London, Edinburgh, Melbourne, Lisbon, Monte Carlo, Zagreb, Dublin, Osaka, Mexico City, Rome, Budapest, Krakow and Prague. In 1969 the work of Dr. Lomax-Simpson was featured on television in a 'Man Alive' Programme and she appeared on Channel 4 'Comment' talking about the Large Group in 1995.
Two very individual strands have run throughout the years in all that Dr Lomax-Simpson has achieved. These factors are her hall-mark:
a) Continuity of Concern: This symbolises Dr Lomax-Simpson's work with the many individuals with whom she has worked. This is more than a professional interest and finds no barrier in social class. It is the generous giving of professional skill, time, concern and sometimes financial support in order to facilitate the growth and development of a former Children's Home or Messenger House Trust Resident, a neighbour, colleague, friend or godchild.
b) Social Networks: Because Dr Lomax-Simpson is a realist she has recognised the importance of people not only living and working together in the community but also having the capacity to talk to each other and experience a 'sense of belonging'. Through the medium of the Large Group many people have come to terms with the feelings of isolation and alienation which are so often the problems leading to mental illness and breakdown. Sharing personal problems and also recognising and helping others creates personal self esteem and self confidence. Dr Lomax- Simpson has found the Large Group to be a realistic medium through which to work and has successfully treated not only patients suffering from mental illness in this way but also people with personality disorder, delinquents, people suffering from bereavement, and the stigma of belonging to minority groups within society. During the 15 years Dr Lomax-Simpson has run large groups at the Messenger House Trust, the Wallington Day Hospital and the Roundshaw Estate, many people have benefited from her individual method of working. Colleagues from abroad have attended her Large Group sessions and similar groups have been 'seeded' in 1989 in Rome and Ljubljana.
Although Dr Lomax-Simpson will be retiring as a Consultant in the National Health Service in March 1990, this will no doubt mark the beginning of a new phase in her continuing exploration of her life's work - summarised by her headmistress almost fifty years previously: "for her burning desire is genuinely to help mankind and improve his lot".