Co-designing the future of mental health services and support

Good mental health matters to everyone. It has a deep and profound impact on our quality of life and life outcomes, and is essential if people, communities and places are to flourish. A thriving society is one in which the mental health of everyone, however challenging, is nurtured, understood and accepted.

But despite living at a time of unprecedented focus, energy, investment and creativity in the world of mental health services and support, our collective mental health is getting worse, and many people don’t get the right help when they need it.

The problem

up to 4 months

Length of delays faced by people with anxiety of depression to start "talking therapies" treatment

only 14%

of adults feel they are provided with the right response when they are in crisis

Almost 50%

increase in referrals to child mental health services from pupils aged 11 and under, over the past three years

1 in 4

girls has depression by the time they hit 14

Too many people across the UK are struggling with their mental health but are not getting the help they need when and where they need it. They are trying to access mental health services that have responded to rising demand by restricting entry to only those with the most complex mental illness. The result is frustration, despair and worsening ill health as they wait and hope for months and even years for something or someone to help. 

At the same time, there is under investment in primary and community-based solutions that have the potential to open up access, manage demand more effectively, improve outcomes and drive down cost.

And, mental health services often fail to deal holistically with the social and economic factors that affect mental health. In our work we have come across many stories of people experiencing poverty, worrying about money, caring for others whilst balancing their own mental health needs, living with the aftermath of adverse childhood experiences, feeling socially isolated, being victims of crime and not having their basic needs met. Struggles with ‘mental health’ are often struggles to work through adversity and its effects.

Our vision

We want all communities to embrace and nurture everyone’s mental health. This means:

  • Communities where there is common ownership of mental health – so that people and professionals work together on an equal footing to make sense of, and respond to, mental health problems.
  • Mental health (good or ‘bad’) is understood as a source of inspiration, growth and expression – so that people become deeply self-aware about their own mental health and skilled in using their personal struggles as opportunities for growth and change.
  • Professional services, when needed, provide compassionate and genuinely person centred care when and where people need it – so that they feel listened to and are supported to recover well.

Our work

We support the development of new solutions and help spread tried and tested innovations to new places. We are experts in system change and apply methods for co-designing new services out of the voice of lived experience and through collaborative leadership.

Learning from our work across mental health and social care, we think future systems must enable:

  • People with lived experience at the heart of co-design
  • Early identification, intervention and prevention
  • Easy in, easy out service models
  • Conversational models of assessment that focus on people’s strengths, resources and networks
  • Shared practice models working across agencies and sectors
  • Holistic care – clinical alongside social, and working with the wider determinants of health and working with people’s whole lives and whole experience. 
  • Support plans (where needed) created and owned by service users
  • Collaborative leadership and commissioning

We are particularly interested in:

  • System transformation that dissolves the boundary between primary and secondary care – Living Well UK
  • Partnerships for co-designing new solutions for children and young people that work preventatively below the threshold of CAMHS services#Thrive

More information