NSUN regularly responds to policy developments in mental health and provides briefings and statements to influence and inform policy and decision-makers, as well as others in the mental health space. We take a critical, political, and rights-based approach to policy work, centring social justice, anti-oppression, and the social and material determinants of mental ill-health, distress, and trauma.
At NSUN we aim to work collaboratively and support the work of other campaigning organisations, and we are part of several policy and campaigns coalitions and consortiums undertaking joint work. These include the Disability Benefits Consortium and the Disabled People’s Organisation Forum.
To keep up to date with this work, you can visit the policy briefings and articles section of our website for all the latest news. We also will share information on current campaigning activity and action on our social media channels and in our weekly membership bulletin/supporter newsletter, which you can sign up to here, but you can find more information below on some key policy areas and campaigns NSUN is working on or supporting.
Human rights and state violence
We have a focus on issues of human rights and state violence, including institutional abuse and harm in mental health services and settings, coercion, surveillance, and the criminalisation of distress/police involvement in mental health crisis.
We also consider the cost of living crisis, austerity, and government cuts and changes to benefits/welfare to come under the umbrella of state harm and violence. Our campaigning work in this area is often done in partnership with collections mentioned previously on this page, such as the Disability Benefits Consortium.
You can read more about this area of our work in some of the blogs and articles below:
- Who gets believed: abuse in mental health services
- Outsourcing morality: the dangers of private detention in mental health and beyond
- Alternatives to mental health crisis support: are we asking the right questions?
- NSUN response: Met police to stop attending emergency mental health calls and Joint statement: rethinking responses to mental health crises following police withdrawal
- Surveillance in mental health settings – NSUN response to JCHR inquiry
- DPO Forum launches the Disabled People’s Manifesto
The needs of user-led groups
Alongside work on issues of state violence, including abuse and harm in mental health settings and austerity, welfare and benefits, we have a key focus on work around the needs of user-led groups.
NSUN has been advocating for grassroots, user-led community mental health groups since our formation. We want to make the case for the often-invisible labour of grassroots groups, who meet community-specific needs, to be valued, understood, and funded. Traditional funding and capacity-building structures currently keep these groups precarious, excluding them from funding due to capacity, funding, or evidence requirements.
Sitting alongside our own small grants programmes for member groups, recent work in this area includes:
- Funding Grassroots Mental Health Work (2022) – research report and recommendations for funders
- What Do User-Led Groups Need? (2020) – report and recommendations for funders and the wider sector
- Production of Resources for Groups
- Production of Resources for Funders
Specific campaigns by, or supported by, NSUN
Oxevision: surveillance in mental health settings
We are supporting Stop Oxevision to organise against surveillance in mental health inpatient settings. In July 2023, we published their open letter and petition to NHS England and all mental health trusts in England, calling on them to halt the rollout of Oxevision whilst an independent review is conducted into the legality and potential risks associated with the use of surveillance technology within psychiatric inpatient settings, which you can read and sign below.
The Online Safety Bill
We are currently working with our member group, Make Space (and with the support of another member organisation, Self-injury Support) to organise against the inclusion of a new self-harm related offence in the upcoming Online Safety Bill, which opens further avenues for the criminalisation of distress and promotes further stigma and misunderstanding about the nature of self-harm.
This began with an open letter on the issue – you can read the open letter and add your signature below. We are supporting Make Space to influence parliament around the introduction of the Bill.
StopSIM: the criminalisation of distress
In 2021, the StopSIM coalition began its work organising against the Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) scheme, a programme for what they term “High Intensity Users” (most of whom have a label of a ‘Personality Disorder’) of crisis and emergency healthcare services. The coalition succeeded in seeing the High Intensity Network close.
You can read the StopSIM coalition consensus statement, and NSUN’s supporting statement, here. You can also listen to our podcast episodes on StopSIM via the NSUN podcast.
In March 2023, NHSE backtracked on its promise to release a joint policy with StopSIM around the SIM model and similar “high intensity service use” models, setting out practices that must be eliminated in mental health care (and how this should be monitored), instead publishing a short letter to trusts. We stand in solidarity with the coalition, who closed as a result of the harm caused by this move. You can read our statement on the failure to publish the policy below.
Holding Our Own
NSUN is part of the Holding Our Own coalition with Liberty, Northern Police Monitoring Project, Release, No More Exclusions, INQUEST, Maslaha, Kids of Colour, Art Against Knives, and JENGbA. In 2023, the coalition released a joint report on alternative solutions to what gets called “serious youth violence”, and NSUN’s chapter, ‘Being with’ not ‘doing to’, looks at violence, harm, and police involvement in mental health services, with a call for community-led care to be resourced.
The Mental Health Act
NSUN has campaigned around the Mental Health Act 1983, a piece of legislation in England and Wales setting out when people can be detained and hospitalised for mental health treatment against their wishes, for a long time. Our most recent work revolves around the White Paper (2021), and the resulting Draft Mental Health Bill (2022).