Changing the way we think about mental health

On Wednesday 14th March 2013, AFG sponsored the Public Service Events ‘Mental Health: Strategy to Reality’ conference in Manchester.

The conference, organised by Public Service Events,  brought together key stakeholders in mental health including policy makers, drivers, influencers, experts and service users, who were integral in the construction of the recently published Mental Health Strategy Implementation Framework, to discuss the current challenges in mental health and how the framework enables all to meet these challenges.

A series of presentations and masterclasses enabled delegates to challenge, discuss and debate the current and future provision of mental health services in the UK.


Dr Mike Smith, Clinical Director of Mental Health Services, and former consultant to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN), spoke at a masterclass which focussed on delegates changing the way they think about mental health services.

Dr. Smith said

“The Government, mental health services and society as a whole all need to change their thinking of “mental illness and wellbeing” more as stages in life and growth, in which some people struggle and need assistance and others grow and flourish in their lives”.

Mike, a leading international expert in mental health, believes the skills and support needed at differing stages are quite distinct and often paradoxically opposed therefore doing the same for all is not a viable option.

Having worked as a psychiatric nurse and in a number of countries developing community based and owned mental health services, Mike challenges the traditional psychiatric orthodoxy and focus on ‘The process of breakdown, breakthrough and breakout – Doing different things at different stages’.

Speaking at the event Dr. Smith said: “Rates of diagnosis are increasing as our science now categorises more than 300 mental illnesses to treat.

“Services need to be much more distinct around the three phases and to focus much more on restoration and growth than disability and difficulty if they wish to be economically effective in contemporary society.

“Recovery rates from serious mental illness in Western Europe and North America have remained static or even fallen while in Africa and Asia they are consistently higher whilst diagnosis rates are also lower and corresponding disability rates and welfare spend is considerably lower.”

“Our services are built around each individual and designed to ensure that all people have choice. Moving forward it’s important to recognise how services and help may be structured with different skills and strategies to assist or support people to take ownership of their experiences and to work to become unstuck.”

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