A new report by the Centre for Social Justice, argues that institutional thinking still dogs
mental health practice. By Ruth Allen
The unfinished revolution
hese have been an exciting few years in the mental health field. User-led ideas of self- defined recovery have increasingly influenced services and professional perspectives. The crucial importance of employment, housing
and ordinary life opportunities for people with mental health conditions is increasingly taken as read. And perhaps the veil of stigma and prejudice
surrounding mental illness, distress and disorder is showing signs of lifting as public awareness campaigns like ‘Time to Change’ have some impact. In some areas of practice at least, mental health services seem to be on a positive, possibly transformative path to ‘deinstitutionalisation’. But the journey still feels long and far from over.
The report emphasises the need for breaking down stigma and tackling
inequalities... It links well being with the challenge of poverty
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) recently published its report on future approaches to mental health: Completing the Revolution. It makes the point that the asylum closures in the 1960s started a ‘revolution’ that is unfinished. A step change is now needed, it argues, to complete the transformation. The report follows the government’s overarching strategy document: No Health Without Mental
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Health. But this new piece offers a much more substantial description of what changes are needed and how they might be achieved. The first point to note is that it is likely to be very influential within national policy, as the clout of the CSJ should not be underestimated. The CSJ is perhaps best known for being founded by Iain Duncan Smith, now coalition government secretary of state for work and pensions. It has a reputation for placing an emphasis on the importance of preventing ‘family breakdown’ and promoting reform of the welfare benefits system to create less ‘dependency’ and more incentives for work and contribution to society. Whatever the overall aims of the CSJ, most of the
report’s key messages should chime with social work values, and align well with other policies impacting on our practice, such as self-directed support, safeguarding people through enabling them and their families to take optimal choice and control, recovery- focused approaches and pursuing social inclusion. The report emphasises the need for breaking
down stigma and tackling inequalities – particularly racial bias in the use of mental health law, extending choice and opportunity and pursuing public health aims of improving mental wellbeing throughout society. It links mental wellbeing with the challenge of poverty throughout, and contains useful information about a range of correlates of disadvantage and mental illness and distress, which any social worker should find useful to inform their practice.