Building communities that care – our plans for 2022

26/01/2022

CEO Mark Winstanley shares plans for what is a very special year for us as a charity. We're marking half a century of supporting people living with mental illness and their carers.

This is a special year for Rethink Mental Illness: throughout 2022 we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary. A milestone that provides an opportunity to reflect on progress made to improve the lives of people severely affected by mental illness and their carers, but also to set out the battles still to be won and our plans to deliver change.

Today we run over 90 mental health services across England that support people to live and thrive in their own communities. With the help of volunteers, we also run a further 140 local peer support groups and an award-winning advice and information line which receives over 4,000 requests for help every year. But there is still so much work to do. For too many people, access to well-funded mental health care and support that meets their full needs seems further away than ever.

In 2022, we will drive forward our ambition to create Communities that Care. Our Communities that Care model recognises that no treatment or therapy on its own can overcome social isolation, racism, inadequate housing, poverty and the impact of poor physical health. In addition to demanding that people receive the right treatment at the right time, if we want to improve the lives of people severely affected by mental illness and their carers we also need to ensure that people’s needs are fully met through the care and support they receive. We must also tackle the environmental and social drivers of mental illness and challenge the stigma of severe mental illness that people still sadly experience today.

Building on our work in supporting Open Mental Health in Somerset,  our Community Mental Health Unit will continue to lead the way in adopting best approaches to embed the NHS England/Improvement Community Mental Health Framework across the country. Helping deliver a new world where the support people need is delivered in their own community by both the voluntary sector and community-led groups.

In Somerset we often heard that when people asked for help, they found themselves in a queue and when they got to the front of the queue, they found out it was the wrong queue. What they wanted was for there to be no wrong door to accessing support. Open Mental Health in Somerset has now helped hundreds of people to access the help they need. So, when people ask for help, they automatically come to the right place and are supported as a whole person (so that their financial, housing, physical health, employment and volunteering needs are also met). In 2022 we are working to adopt (and adapt as appropriate) this approach in Cheshire & Wirral, Coventry & Warwickshire, North East Lincolnshire, Norfolk & Waveney, Sheffield and Tower Hamlets.

To challenge the drivers of mental illness, we will continue to lobby the Department of Work and Pensions on the scandal of death and severe harm caused by the benefits system, through our Stop Benefit Deaths campaign. Until the voices of people with lived experience and affected families are heard by government, we will continue to shout from the rooftops on the need for change for people who have been failed so badly by the very system that is meant to support them.

From a policy perspective we are looking specifically at employment and the physical health of people severely affected by mental illness, including access to physical health checks. We are highlighting social care and the role it plays in delivering the Community Mental Health Framework. And we will be assessing the impact of the pandemic on services and on people affected by mental illness.

Racial injustice remains a driver of mental illness and a barrier to support for people from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds. In 2022, we continue to work towards becoming an Anti-Racist Organisation creating new roles in the charity that will drive forward both our internal work to become a more diverse organisation and our external voice on the intersection of racial injustice and mental illness.  

To tackle stigma and ensure that severe mental illness is part of the growing public conversation on mental health, we will launch a groundbreaking awareness campaign on psychosis and the support that is (and should be) available to people following a first episode. On our actual birthday, 25 July, we will again deliver National Schizophrenia Awareness Day.

Over 50 years we have delivered change and we will not stop until all people severely affected by mental illness live in Communities that Care.

We can’t do this alone. Please sign up to our newsletter below to stay in touch with updates across the year and to hear about ways you can get involved and support our vital work.

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