Our history

Rethink Mental Illness was formed over 50 years ago by a group of inspiring people who were caring for a loved one living with schizophrenia.

The experiences and knowledge of carers and people living with mental illness have been vital in helping our organisation improve the lives of thousands of people every year. Together, we’ve developed and established expert information and advice, services and support groups for people severely affected by mental illness. 

We’ve provided training and launched local and national campaigns that have changed, and continue to change, society's attitudes and behaviours towards people living with severe mental illness.

 - 2023 -

  • Inquiry into safeguarding benefit claimants

    The Department for Work and Pensions select committee launch inquiry into safeguarding benefit claimants. Too many unnecessary deaths occur as a result of our current benefits system. We encourage claimants with experience of mental illness to tell their story and shape its future.

- 2022 -

  • Draft reform of the Mental Health Act

    The government publishes a draft reform of the Mental Health Act (MHA). It’s a cause for celebration after years of campaigning for an Act fit for the 21st Century and thousands of testimonies from people experiencing severe mental illness. 

  • 50th anniversary

    We mark 50 years of fighting for the rights of people living with severe mental illness, holding a number of events for members and supporters throughout the year, a celebratory event at the Houses of Parliament and a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of early intervention in psychosis.

 - 2021 -

  • Commitment to become anti-racist

    As a charity we acknowledge our need to become an anti-racist organisation. We recognise our workforce is not as diverse or representative as it needs be to mirror the community we serve. We commit to investing in key roles focused on addressing inequalities and injustice in the health and social care system. We continue our campaign to reform the Mental Health Act is shaped and informed by racial disparities.

  • Transforming community mental health

    In response to the NHS Long Term Plan’s mission to transform a vision for community-based support, we release our second guide outlining the steps needed to transform community mental health care.

- 2020 -

  • Responding to the Covid-19 Pandemic

    We quickly adapt our vital work to fit in with the restrictions caused by the Covid-10 pandemic. Our advice lines see a significant rise in calls, our face-to-face services adjust to phone appointments, our online information pages assist people with concerns about the vaccine.

  • Open Mental Health Somerset

    We are integral to the launch of Open Mental Health Somerset – a trailblazing alliance of local voluntary organisations, the NHS and social care to help people in the Somerset community get the support they need, when they need it.

 - 2019 -

  • Building Communities that Care report

    We publish our Building Communities That Care report, highlighting a blueprint for supporting people severely affected by mental illness in their local communities by 2024. The report argues when we support people as a ‘whole’, we give them the opportunity to thrive, not just survive.
  • Carers Week 2019 official supporter

    We become a charity supporter of Carers Week 2019, which takes place between 10–16 June. We believe this reflects our heritage as a charity founded by carers and an organisation that still offers life-changing services and support for carers across the country.
  • NHS Long Term Plan

    NHS England publishes its Long Term Plan, which sets out a commitment to improve community services for people severely affected by mental illness. This is something we’ve long campaigned for.

- 2018 -

  • Mental Health Act campaign success

    The Independent Review of the Mental Health Act publishes its final report. This follows our campaigning with other organisations for a review of the Mental Health Act 1983 to take place. The Review’s report features over 150 recommendations for change that could give more choice and autonomy to people detained under the Mental Health Act. 

  • Right treatment, right time

    In our Right treatment, right time report, we highlight the experiences of the care and treatment received by over 1,600 people using NHS mental health services. It reveals that people severely affected by mental illness are often waiting the longest for the treatment they need.

  • Supported housing campaign win

    Our campaigning with organisations from the mental health and housing sectors leads to the government announcing it will drop its harmful plan for supported housing funding. This means people will continue to claim Housing Benefit to pay for supported housing, rather than them claiming Universal Credit to pay for it.

  • Campaign win on Personal Independence Payments 

    Our combined efforts with other mental health campaigners result in the government announcing that it will not challenge a High Court ruling that its PIP policy has discriminated against people with mental health conditions.  This is a huge victory for people severely affected by mental illness, as it will allow  up to 220,000 of them to access vital disability benefits.

 - 2017 -

  • Schizophrenia Commission – Progress Report

    Five years after the Schizophrenia Commission published a groundbreaking report on the care provided to people living with psychotic illness, the Commission publishes a new report on the progress made against 11 key recommendations. It finds that although progress has been made in some areas, people are still not guaranteed access to high-quality, evidence-based treatments of their choice and close to their homes.

  • Mental Health & Money Advice Service

    As part of Mental Health UK, we launch the Mental Health & Money Advice service. It is the first service for everyone in the UK which is designed to support people affected by mental health and money issues, including carers, friends, families and professionals within the area.

- 2016 -

  • Launch of Mental Health UK

    We start to work with Support in Mind Scotland, Wales’s Adferiad Recovery and Northern Ireland’s MindWise as the UK-wide organisation Mental Health UK. Our collective aim is to deliver services, provide information and raise funds so more people across the UK can access the mental health support they need.


  • A national strategy for mental health

    The independent Mental Health Taskforce, of which we’re a member, publishes The five year forward view for mental health report. The report features all 17 of our recommendations and following publication the NHS announces a new commitment to provide £1 billion of funding per year to mental healthcare by 2020/21.


- 2015 -

  • Manifestos for better mental health 

    The rising profile of mental health issues is reflected in the manifestos of all the major parties standing in the 2015 general election. For the first time, every manifesto contains mental health commitments.

- 2014 -

  • The first Time to Talk Day

    Time to Change, our campaign with the mental health charity Mind, holds its first Time to Talk Day. Its aim is to encourage everyone to talk more openly about mental health.

  • Millions engage with our #FindMike campaign 

    We launch our #FindMike campaign, which reunites Jonny Benjamin with Neil Laybourn, who stopped him from ending his life on Waterloo Bridge six years earlier. Millions of people around the world join the search, and the #FindMike hashtag trends in 25 countries. The campaign opens many people’s eyes to what it is like to live with schizophrenia.

  • The first National Psychosis Summit

    We hold a major event which brings together 200 NHS leaders, policy makers and people with experience of mental illness to help improve care for people living with psychosis and schizophrenia. Attendees include Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support, and Dr Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for Mental Health.

  • Securing early access to vital support

    We publish our Lost generation report, which calls on the government to protect E(EIP) services for young people. The report and our wider campaigning on this issue leads to the NHS applying maximum waiting times for all . This is a significant step forward in giving people better access to vital support when they first experience psychosis.

  • Reaching millions through press coverage

    We’re chosen as one of the charities for The Guardian’s Christmas charity appeal (The Telegraph do the same in 2015). The appeals help us talk to a combined audience of 250 million people about our work and the experiences of people affected by a wide range of mental health issues.

  • Mark Winstanley appointed as Chief Executive

    In September 2014, Mark Winstanley is appointed as the permanent CEO of Rethink Mental Illness.



  • Preventing legal discrimination 

    We support the passing of the Mental Health Discrimination Act, which stops it being legal to disqualify people from becoming a member of a jury, MP or company director because of their mental illness. 

  • Schizophrenia Awareness Week launched

    We launch our annual Schizophrenia Awareness Week. Over the years, it has raised vital awareness of what schizophrenia is and the need for greater support for people affected by the illness.

  • A call to prevent avoidable deaths

    We publish our Lethal discrimination report, which highlights that people living with mental illness are needlessly dying because of a lack of care and support. This leads to us launching our +20 campaign in 2014. It raises awareness of the 20-year reduction in life expectancy of people with severe mental illness because of the physical health risks they face.

- 2012 -

  • Parity of esteem – an equal footing for mental health

    We are part of a coalition which puts forward an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill which, for the first time, confirms that mental health should be treated on an equal footing with physical health.


  • We become Rethink Mental Illness

    We extend our name from Rethink to Rethink Mental Illness. It’s a call to the public to reconsider the views they may hold about mental illness.

  • Expert advice for the government

    We advise the UK’s coalition government on their No health without mental health report. It emphasises the fundamental role good mental health plays in people’s overall well being.

  • Schizophrenia Commission established

    We establish the Schizophrenia Commission, which publishes The abandoned illness, a highly influential report that helps to shape future government policy.

- 2010 -

  • An important ruling for job candidates  

    Our campaigning leads to a new ruling preventing employers from asking interview candidates about their mental health until after a job offer has been made.

 - 2009 - 

  • A top mark for our information

    We are the first mental health charity to receive accreditation from NHS England’s Information Standard. This recognises the rigorous and transparent process we use to produce our information materials.

  • MindWise in Northern Ireland launched

    MindWise, our sister organisation in Northern Ireland, is established.

- 2007 -

  • Time to Change launched

    In partnership with the mental health charity Mind, we launch Time to Change, our campaign to change how everyone thinks and acts about mental health problems. Since 2007, it has led to millions of people changing their attitudes towards mental illness.

- 2002 -

  • A new name

    We change our name from National Schizophrenia Fellowship to Rethink, reflecting our focus on many mental health issues, not just schizophrenia.

  • Our first crisis house

    We open our first crisis house in Lincolnshire, which offers short-term housing to people experiencing mental illness and is an alternative to them going into hospital. Today, we have nine crisis and recovery houses, which provide support to around 1,200 people each year.

  • Adferiad Recovery in Wales established

    Adferiad Recovery, our sister organisation in Wales, is set up to support people severely affected by mental illness.

- 1997 -

  • Welcome media exposure

    We are one of five organisations out of 300 applicants to benefit from GMTV’s Get Up and Give fundraising event. We also work closely with the BBC on an EastEnders storyline about character Joe Wicks’ experience of schizophrenia. The episode in which Joe is detained under the Mental Health Act (otherwise known as being “sectioned”) is watched by 22 million people.

- 1995 -

  • Groundbreaking carers report

    We publish Silent partners, a report commissioned by the Department of Health. At the time, this is the largest ever survey of the needs of people who care for someone living with a severe mental illness.

- 1992 -

  • Our Advice Service opens

    We launch our Advice Service, which has gone on to provide vital help to tens of thousands of people over the years.

  • United across Europe

    We are one of the 11 founding members of the European Federation of Associations of Families of People with Mental Illness. Its aim is to improve care and welfare for people affected by mental illness across Europe. 

- 1989 -

  • Putting schizophrenia in the spotlight

    We draft a Schizophrenia Aftercare Bill with Lord Mottistone that is passed in the House of Lords but defeated in the House of Commons. Despite this outcome, the publicity that surrounded bill helps to raise public awareness of schizophrenia.

- 1987 -

  • Our first training

    For the first time, we start to offer training on mental health issues. Today, we deliver face-to-face training to over 2,500 people from businesses, public bodies and other charities every year.

- 1984 -

  • Support In Mind Scotland established

    Support In Mind Scotland, our sister organisation north of the border, is launched.

 - 1982 -

  • Our first campaign

    During the review of the 1959 Mental Health Act, we call for improvements in five key areas to improve support for carers and strengthen care in the community.

- 1977 -

  • Growing awareness

    On Radio 4, we feature on the Week’s Good Cause programme. The fundraising appeal raises £2,350 to support our services.

- 1976 -

  • First government funding

    We receive our first funding from government, which helps us to expand our work.

 - 1973 -

  • Carer support groups

    We launch our first support groups for carers in the West of England and the Midlands.

- 1972 -

  • Our official launch

    We officially launch our organisation under the name of the Schizophrenia Fellowship. This is changed to the National Schizophrenia Fellowship in 1974.

  • Our first member

    Ernestine Adams, whose brother Philip lived with schizophrenia, becomes our first member. In the following year, 240 more people join Ernestine as a member.

- 1970 - 

  • Our origin

    Journalist John Pringle writes a leader column in The Times about his son’s experience of schizophrenia. This leads to 400 people contacting John, including many who care for someone living with mental illness. Some of these carers go on to help found the organisation which is now Rethink Mental Illness.