By Debbie le Quesne

Mental health: Is this a chance for progress?

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The recently published government No Health Without Mental Health implementation framework promises to give psychological conditions “parity of esteem” with physical ones.

Since publication, however, figures show that mental health spending is in fact falling further behind physical health for the first time in 10 years, as demand is rising.

It’s frustrating news, with service user-led charity the National Survivor User Network confessing it struggled to fully commit to the framework it helped to shape.

NSUN connects nearly 2,000 groups and people in England with experience of mental health distress to encourage service user involvement and influence in commissioning and policy.

Earlier this year the charity claimed the Government was failing to support its objectives and in fact in some instances was seriously undermining its aims.

The Department for Education’s decision to remove wellbeing and community cohesion from the school inspection regime is in direct contradiction to the strategy’s call for more early intervention and education.

Now free from these requirements, many schools are shutting counselling services and nine out of 10 academies are serving their pupils junk food.

I applaud the NSUN for standing up to Government policy which it believed to be wrong, but mental health issues at any level are never easy to address.

Thankfully the framework document no longer subjectively brands all mental health conditions an ‘illness’ and disempowered service users as ‘victims’ and ‘sufferers’ suggesting they have no control over their lives.

In practical terms the NSUN suggestions to emphasise the value of involving service users in the commissioning of their own services to an agreed standard, and enabling self-help, peer support, personalised budgets, training and education have all been taken up and will form part of the implementation instructions to medical and social care professionals, local authorities, commissioners, providers and employers, among others.

Great news.


In essence mental health service users recover best when they are given control over their own lives and treated as having assets and potential rather than as problems to be medicated and managed.

The Guardian recently reported that The Lambeth Living Well Collaborative, for example, has helped more than 200 psychiatric inpatients get back into the community by helping them fulfil their ambitions and in Hackney, NSUN has seen service users grow in confidence while building a commissioning advisory group to shape services to their needs.

But I’m left asking one burning question. Will this framework really make a difference?

We have a valuable chance of progress here but noisy issues of finance may, I feel, stifle these excellent initiatives.

NSUN has pledged to monitor the implementation, partly through the new Mental Health Watch scheme, where service users get involved in their local scrutiny groups and share intelligence and good practice.

Perhaps those of us with sound minds also need to pay attention to developments in this arena and remain constructively critical.

Written by debbielq

August 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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