Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The UK Government recently published a consultation on its upcoming 10-year mental health plan (link here). Our Trauma-Informed Communities Project Manager Aidan Phillips offers his thoughts on this consultation.

Here are my immediate thoughts on the focus and format of the consultation itself. As we work on our submission, I’ll also share mine and WAVE Trust’s thoughts on how to respond to these areas, as well as the many others raised in what it a welcomingly thorough process.

1) The consultation often asks you to comment separately on how to improve mental health across different age groups (e.g. infants/their caregivers, children, working age adults, etc).

The problem is that your mental health at any one age can often be strongly affected by your past experiences, especially when discussing trauma. Given that a full chapter is included on prevention - and includes that breakdown within that chapter - I'm not sure the people who designed this form are particularly attuned to this. This is something that we at WAVE Trust will be raising in our submission.

2) The consultation seeks feedback from those with lived experience and/or experience of caring for others.

It is good to see this becoming an increasingly common practice, as it has been in the laudable Scottish National Trauma Training programme and as we have also implemented at WAVE Trust via our ‘Hearts of ACE*’ group.

3) "How can we support different sectors within local areas to work together, and with people within their local communities, to improve population wellbeing"

It is good to see the concepts of partnership working and community engagement being raised. Through our research into effective trauma-informed practice across the UK, I've often found that effective partnership working is half the battle when trying to create a Trauma-informed Community (as opposed to a series of occasionally trauma-informed, occasionally not- trauma-informed services). Greater community cohesion and empowerment also have the potential to improve mental health and related outcomes (e.g. alcohol use, crime), as they have done in places such as Washington State, US.

 4) "Do you have ideas for how employers can support and protect the mental health of their employees?"

It is good to see workplaces/professions being seen as places that can improve or worsen mental health. Incidentally, approaches such as restorative practice and trauma-informed practice that are primarily focused on service users often create better environments to support staff well-being too – as with the age group distinction above, the solutions are often inter-linked.

5) "Do you have any suggestions for how the rest of society can better identify and respond to signs of mental ill-health?"

This question is focused on community bodies, public services and private and community sectors, and the collaboration between them all. I’m glad to see that the Government is not solely focused on mental health support as a public and third sector-led service, as has often historically been the focus, but instead as a society-wide effort to which all can contribute. Might we see public awareness campaigns and community engagement programmes come out of this, as well as changes to NHS and other public sector practice?

 6) "What should inpatient mental health care look like in 10 years’ time?"

Questions like this, as well as the general long-term focus of the plan, are encouraging to see. So many mental health concerns (and knock-on effects) can be traced back years to experiences and environments in a person’s earlier life. You can’t make progress across society if you try to fix the present problems in the present alone and we’ll only get the best results if we’re seeking to primarily support people a decade or more in advance. I’m glad to see the Government getting this.

7) "What do we (as a society) need to do or change in order to improve the lives of people living with mental health conditions?"

This is another encouraging realisation to see. Because sadly, not everyone will recover from their mental health concerns or conditions, even if they can be mitigated or supported more effectively in many cases. Living as comfortably as possible is often the best option for people. Given how big an impact the strength of our social networks, the approach of primarily public and third sector services, and our understanding of ourselves/techniques that work for us can have, I hope the Government’s eventual answer to this question will be very wide-reaching.

8) "What can we change at a system level to ensure that individuals with co-occurring mental health and drug and alcohol issues encounter ‘no wrong door’ in their access to all relevant treatment and support?"

I’ve known of a number of local authorities who have been trying to move increasingly in this direction. Besides avoiding frustration and drop-outs among service users, it also stands to offer many potential efficiency savings for local authorities too, in time and money. Everyone stands to win. Though given the difficulty and time investment involved in making such a shift, perhaps the Government could offer grants to support local authorities through such transitions?

9) "What ‘values’ or ‘principles’ should underpin the plan as a whole?"

It is interesting to see this included. Usually when I look at such plans, they tell you their values and principles at the beginning (not always using those words) and ask you to take them into account when replying. Hopefully, this is a sign they’re looking to properly incorporate external views at all stages of the process.

On the whole, encouraging to see such a breadth of important areas being covered, even if I’m not convinced they quite get the prevention element yet. But then, that’s why we have consultations. I’ll be sharing more insights about mine and WAVE Trust’s submission in due course.

Final thoughts: On the whole, encouraging to see such a breadth of important areas being covered, even if I’m not convinced they quite get the prevention element yet. But then, that’s why we have consultations. I’ll be sharing more insights about mine and WAVE Trust’s submission in due course.

*ACE = Adverse Childhood Experiences.