About Compassionate Mental Health

Compassionate Mental Health is working with a network of people across the UK and internationally to transform mental health services, and radically change the conversation around mental illness.

  • OUR VISION is of a world where more people recover after a serious mental health crisis, and people have access to a range of compassionate services to help develop positive mental health and wellbeing.  
  • OUR MISSION is to be a beacon for those going through tough times, and to work with a network of people and places across the UK and internationally to transform mental health services, and radically change the way we talk about and treat mental illness.
  • OUR APPROACH is to work with a range of partners across the UK and globally to call for a more integrative approach to mental health – one that relies less on diagnosis and psychiatric drugs, and more on empowering the person, communities and social networks. Our activities are shaped by a belief that recovery after a mental health crisis is possible, and that good mental wellbeing can be achieved by strengthening and empowering communities, activating social networks, and providing access to inspiring opportunities and education.
  • GATHERING We offer online and in person educational programmes and practices, designed to catalyse change in the mental health system, and spark transformation in individuals and communities.

Since 2016 we have held 13 Compassionate Mental Health “Gatherings” that bring together people with personal experience of mental distress together with those who design and deliver mental health services. We showcase a range of compassionate and therapeutic approaches. We also deliver online and in person training to smaller groups.

At the heart of the project is a belief that it is possible to begin to heal oneself and others through the power of community, connection, self care and solidarity.

Our key message remains that a mental health crisis can become a meaningful turning point and catalyst for change, and we need a new network of safe, healing mental health services that people want to use when they are in crisis. We believe a culture of compassion and collaboration can and must replace models of over medicalisation, coercion and restraint.

Bessell van der Kolk in his book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma writes:

“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”

We create structured and safe ways for people to listen to each other’s experiences, and grow empathy and understanding for views that may be different to our own.

Along with many other critical voices – we are calling for a radical shift in the way we understand mental illness and treatment approaches – changing the script, challenging stigma and raising expectations. This is a gathering and unconference, but there are key learning outcomes associated with service transformation, moving towards a more co-productive, psychosocial approach.

What we’re not

We are not an anti-psychiatry organistaion, or one that proposes a right way to recovery, self management or service improvement. But – along with many other critical voices – we are calling for a radical shift in the way people understand and approach mental health issues.

Our goal is to be part of the global call for better, safer mental health services for all. We hope to do this by building bridges and growing understanding that people in crisis need more than just medicine. Feeling connected, finding meaning in crisis, and sharing tools for stability are all vital for a whole person approach.

There needs to be better funding for mental health services in all settings, and opportunities to share ideas for the future.  Our hope is that we can all move forward together into a more collaborative, compassionate chapter.

Mental health is everyone’s business

Mental illness is one of the biggest challenges of our age. The mental health system is struggling to cope with growing demand for services, and mental ill health is second to heart disease as the leading contributor to the global burden of disease . Despite this, public spending is focused almost entirely on crisis, with not enough funding for prevention or resilience building. It’s time to look beyond the one in four statistic, and start thinking about mental distress as something that can happen to us all.

“There’s ‘Them’ and there’s ‘Us’. We are well, happy and safe. They are mentally ill and dangerous. Is this really true? Or is the uncomfortable truth that there’s a continuum, a scale along which we all slide back and forth during our lives. When we separate ourselves we hurt those labelled as sick, ill, even mad, but we also hurt ourselves…” Only Us Campaign 

Friends, Partners and Aligned Organisations

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