Obituary - Professor William Yule
It is with great sadness we report the death of Bill Yule who died suddenly but peacefully at home on November 5th, 2023.
Bill will be fondly remembered by generations of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists far beyond the UK and his influence on child psychology, both clinical and research, has been enormous. In the UK he was head of clinical psychology services at the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals Special Health Authority for many years. He held the Chair in Clinical Psychology (as Professor of Applied Child Psychology) from 1987 until his retirement in 2005, since when he continued as Emeritus Professor of Applied Child Psychology.
Bill’s dedication to clinical psychology encompassed many different areas. In the 1960’s, his research with Michael Rutter, Jack Tizard and others on educational, psychiatric and physical disorders in school-age children on the Isle of Wight was a landmark in the development of epidemiological child psychiatry and psychology. Subsequently he became recognised world-wide for his ground-breaking work on interventions for children suffering from war and tragedy. His involvement in post-traumatic stress disorder among children began with the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry in 1987. Sadly, since then, there has been no diminution in the numbers of children exposed to profound loss and disaster and his work has helped thousands with war-related traumas. During the 1980’s and 1990’s Bill was a member of the British Health Expert Group developing trauma treatments for children affected by the Sri Lankan civil war, and he was an advisor to UNICEF during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. Most recently he was involved in training Ukrainian mental health professionals to use the Teaching Recovery Techniques (TRT) intervention which has now been formally adopted by the Ukrainian Ministry of Science and Education. Bill was a founding trustee of the Children and War Foundation, dedicated to improving children’s lives in wars and disasters, and in 2005 he received a lifetime achievement award from the International Society for the Study of Traumatic Stress for his work with children. (For more details see his obituary in the London Times https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/professor-william-yule-vbm5087cr)
For members of the SSBP, Bill will also be warmly remembered for all his work in helping to found the Society. Throughout the early decades of the 20th century, although the genetic basis of more and more developmental disorders was beginning to be identified, individuals with intellectual disabilities still tended to be regarded, and treated, as if they were a homogeneous group. To counter this view, Bill, with Greg O’Brien, Jim Harris, Tom Oppé, Martin Bax and others in the 1980’s, began to highlight the importance of recognising the very different cognitive and behavioural profiles, needs, and outcomes of children with a range of developmental and genetic disorders. Together they were instrumental in setting up the SSBP in 1987, with the goal of fostering research and developing new genetic and scientific approaches for improving clinical practice and interventions for individuals with many different behavioural and genetic phenotypes. By 1991, Bill and his colleagues had organised the first SSBP conference in London; twenty-three annual meetings, spanning much of the world, have followed to date. In 1996, Bill and Greg O’Brien edited the book “Behavioural Phenotypes”, with contributions from several other SSBP members, summarising advances in the identification, understanding and treatment of individuals with genetic and developmental disorders.
Bill attended numerous meetings of the society and has been an honorary member for many years. He leaves behind a legacy of huge breadth and depth and, without his enthusiasm, initiative and collaborative work with colleagues from across the globe, the SSBP might never have existed.
Bill Yule, with founding members of the SSBP