'Loving, kind and supremely gifted' mental health advocate dies aged 76

Headshot of Joan Greenwood who died aged 76 of cancer

Mental health advocate Joan Greenwood has died from cancer aged 76 - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

A "courageous" and talented mental health advocate and magistrate who created a system to keep mentally ill Norfolk offenders out of prison has died at the age 76.

Joan Greenwood, of West Pentire, Cornwall, was born in Ardsley, Yorkshire, towards the end of the Second World War.

She came from a humble background and excelled academically from an early age. She won a place at a prestigious grammar school and achieved well during her O-levels. However, family circumstances meant she had to leave school to find a job.

After a brief spell as a legal secretary, she joined the Inland Revenue in Leeds as a tax officer and was placed in the top 20 out of over 800 candidates in the national executive officer examination. She was then posted to London where she dealt with the tax affairs of celebrities, including Agatha Christie’s second husband and some of the great train robbers.

In London, she met her future husband, Richard, who then was a medical student at Guys Hospital. They married soon after he qualified in 1968.

While he worked long hours as a junior doctor in various London hospitals, they lived in a flat at the Elephant and Castle before moving to Hayes in Kent.


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Their first two children, Alison and Catherine, were born in London and Kent. Then in 1973, the family moved to South Wales where their son David was born.

In Wales, she decided to resume her education and joined the newly established Open University. After nine years of arduous part-time studying, while bringing up a young family, she was awarded a BA in Humanities.

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In 1979, Dr Greenwood was appointed consultant physician at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and the family moved to East Anglia. There she helped him set up and run his consultant practice before gaining a place at the University of East Anglia to study social sciences. This led to her completing a masters degree, before embarking on a career as a social worker specialising in mental health.

Initially, she worked in a local secure unit before helping to set up and run an innovative court diversion scheme designed to keep mentally ill offenders out of the prison system and divert them to the NHS where they could be treated.

She became a member of the national mental health tribunal panel and was appointed Justice of the Peace.

When Dr Greenwood retired in 2009, they decided to move to his home county of Cornwall, which she grew to love. She never forgot her Yorkshire roots but after inheriting a house in West Pentire, they were able to create their dream home overlooking the sea.

Son David, of Grove Road, Norwich, paid tribute to his mother. He said: "Throughout her career she always passionately supported her family and she made sure that her children were given the educational opportunities that she had been denied. Largely, thanks to her efforts, they are all now well-qualified health care professionals."

He described her as "a loving, kind and supremely gifted person".

Her many creative hobbies included art, music, needlework, and foreign languages, going on to teach herself Arabic. She also supported the local community by helping set up an art group and establishing the Crantock Memory Café, where she chaired the management committee for five years until she became ill.

She was a loyal member of Crantock Church, in Cornwall, which gave her comfort and support before and during her illness.

David added: "She will be much missed by her family and many friends in Yorkshire, Cornwall, East Anglia, Wales and Australia."

Mrs Greenwood died on November 1. Her funeral was held at Crantock Church on November 10, officiated by the Rev Anne Brown.

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