Co-production Week 2017

Co-production Week 2017

Monday, 8 May 2017

Co-production and the mental health survivor movement

By Patrick Wood, trainer and consultant 

The mental health survivor movement has a proud history of standing up for the rights of people who have been subject to mental health system oppression. Over the years, survivors have engaged in separatist action in defence of their collective interests but at the same time they have recognised the value of working alongside allies in the form of mental health workers who have a similar interest in doing what they can to ensure that support for people experiencing distress is grounded in their needs and reflects their wishes.

The modern survivor movement began in the mid-1980s

Survivors Speak Out was formed in 1986, as was Mindlink, and the National Advocacy Network Steering Group was established in 1990 and became UKAN three years later. All three organisations were resolutely survivor led but SSO and UKAN offered opportunities for allies who supported their aims and Mindlink was embedded within the national mental health charity Mind.  The late 1980s also saw the beginnings of Asylum, the magazine for democratic psychiatry, and the Hearing Voices Network, which involved voice hearers, academics and radical mental health professionals.  

The nature of the survivor movement has changed in recent years

There seems to have been a retreat from collective action and a growth in the influence of individual survivors working in association with mainstream organisations. However, the kind of joint working undertaken by SSO, Mindlink and UKAN continues in certain areas, as witnessed by NSUN's involvement in the Mental Health Taskforce's Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

Co-production is about people who use services and carers working in equal partnership with professionals. Someone needs to take the lead in opening up the possibility of these partnerships and something that is particularly valuable about the survivor movement is that people with lived experience have taken on this leadership role.

Co-production isn't just about developing services and support

It also involves challenging stigma and discrimination through fully recognising the positive attributes of traditionally marginalised groups and individuals, and the history of the mental health survivor movement provides numerous examples of this principle being put into action.

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