Campaigns & Policy Work

What we do

NSUN regularly responds to policy developments at the intersection of mental health, disability, and human rights. We work to influence decision-makers and advocate for more nuanced responses to mental ill-health, distress, and trauma. We do this by providing briefings, connecting with other groups, and supporting campaigning work by our members/grassroots groups. You can stay up to date with our latest policy-related news here.

This page sets out our approach, our priority areas, and our support offer for members working on campaigns and policy issues. We have also published a more detailed reflective article on our campaigning and policy work, and its tensions, which you can read here.

Our approach

Campaigns & policy coalitions we are part of include:

Our priorities

We work towards a world in which responses to mental health are nuanced, rights-based and informed by the perspectives of well-resourced grassroots groups. In doing this, we challenge apolitical understandings of mental health, recognising the impact of government policy, state harm, and systemic marginalisation.

We are open to all work conducive to these aims, but our priority areas at the moment are as follows.

1. Challenging poor mental health care

We work to challenge poor and harmful practices within (mental) healthcare. This includes: 

  • Acknowledging and resisting institutional abuse, neglect, and coercion in mental health care. This may include, but isn’t limited to, the underfunding of mental health services.
  • Advocating for plurality and nuance in responses to mental ill-health, distress, and trauma. 
  • Resisting the criminalisation of distress, including police involvement in (mental) healthcare, as well as paying attention to new legislation relevant to mental health. 
  • Challenging ableist and sanist approaches to mental ill-health, distress, and trauma within mental health settings and beyond. 

Examples of our work in this area

2. Political responses to mental health

We work to challenge apolitical and individualised responses to mental health. This includes: 

  • Challenging harmful structures that contribute to mental ill-health, distress and trauma including the impact of the cost of living crisis, austerity, government cuts, the hostile benefits system, precarious employment, and housing. 
  • Challenging racism within mental health settings and racist applications of the Mental Health Act. 
  • Responding to new legislation and policy developments relevant to mental health.
  • The mental health impact of increasing levels of transphobia and violence against trans people. This includes opposing transphobia and trans-hostility in (mental) health settings.

Examples of our work in this area

3. Surveillance and data sharing in mental health

We work to tackle harmful surveillance and data sharing practices in mental health. This includes:

  • Surveillance and data sharing in mental health settings, including within NHS services (for example during A&E visits, safeguarding processes, or in psychiatric inpatient settings). 
  • Patient rights and privacy in technological “innovations” in (mental) health care. 
  • Data sharing between the NHS and the Home Office as part of the hostile environment.
  • Inappropriate reporting practices imposed on grassroots groups by funders.

Examples of our work in this area

Member campaign spotlight – Stop Oxevision

Stop Oxevision and NSUN logos

We are supporting NSUN members Stop Oxevision to campaign against surveillance in mental health inpatient settings that compromises dignity and privacy. Read the open letter and sign the petition to call on NHS England to halt the rollout.

4. Resourcing grassroots groups

We work to dismantle structures that keep user-led, grassroots mental health groups precarious and limit their work to meet community-specific needs. This includes: 

  • Influencing funder practice to encourage more accessible and appropriate funding routes for grassroots groups. 
  • Challenging bureaucratic and institutional processes that limit the work of grassroots groups, including rigid and unsafe safeguarding practices. 
  • Challenging extractive or tokenistic approaches to working with user-led and grassroots groups e.g., co-production initiatives.

Examples of our work in this area

Support for member policy and campaigns work

Please visit our page on supporting member policy and campaigns work to either alert us to a policy issue you think NSUN should be aware of or working on, or to request our support on a policy and campaigns issue you are working on as a NSUN member (someone with lived experience and/or someone who is part of a user-led group).