This week members of the Survivor Researcher Network (SRN) met with Steven Gilbert (one of three Vice chairs for the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act Panel) to discuss what support and guidance could be provided to organisations who will be selected to facilitate focus groups.
This part of the first phase of engagement includes:
• engagement with service users and carers, through a survey, focus groups and a Service User and Carer group
• engagement with professionals and advocacy organisations, through meetings, workshops and governance groups
• a call for evidence
• commissioning bespoke analysis, including academic literature reviews and data analysis
In particular, people wanted to ensure that the focus groups would be run in such a way and ask questions that would enable people with direct experience of the Mental Health Act to say what they wanted to, without being constrained by ideologically based priorities and biases they might not share. As we know, the bio medical model is deeply embedded within the mental health system, legislation and research, and this often sidelines our direct experience as mental health service users. This must be avoided for the Review to be a meaningful process.
NSUN’s objective is to ensure that the independent collective and direct voices of mental health service users is heard.
We strongly lobbied for local and service user led groups to have the opportunity to run their own meetings and gather views to feed in to this review.
We also highlighted the importance of distinguishing between user led organisations and groups and organisations that involve people but are not user run, led or controlled.
Understandably, despite these efforts, many service users are wary and cynical about the whole process. As NSUN London Network member, Dina Poursanidou “The Government is conveying the message that they are taking us seriously, but how can they expect us to believe this when benefits are being cut and the support people who have been discharged from hospital rely on has been cut?”
Set against that, we must remember that the opportunity to influence mental health legislation does not come up very often. NSUN will be keeping you informed of forthcoming focus group details.