How do we take collective responsibility for our mental wellbeing?

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 all citizens, 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

¾ of people

with mental health problems receive no support at all

Only 14% of adults

feel they are provided with the right response when in crisis

Over ½ of parents

with children in mental health hospitals say they have not improved and 24% say they are worse

Specialist, well-trained professionals will always be needed but they are only part of the answer. We need to build the capacity of citizens and communities to manage their own and other people’s mental health over the life course.

Just as in physical health, mental health services are often siloed, difficult to navigate and disempowering. We need to redesign systems of care and support to overcome fragmentation, poor quality care and poor outcomes.

We need to enable citizens and communities to exercise much more agency in the way people are supported to live well. We need to support individuals, employers, schools and community organisations to create mentally healthy places.


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

  • Communities where there is common ownership of mental health – so that citizens become deeply self-aware about their own mental health, what supports it and what undermines it.
  • Mental health is understood as a source of inspiration, growth and expression – so that citizens become skilled in using their personal mental health struggles as opportunities for growth and change.
  • Professional services, when needed, provide exceptional care – so that citizens experience those services as a seamless part of their wider experience of support from family, friends and community.


Professionals and families side by side – services and support in which expertise, insights and perspectives from professionals and citizens are combined to offer more compassionate and holistic responses to distress.

Example: Open Dialogue, a patient-centred model that allows clinicians, support workers (including peer support workers) and family members to work together on an equal footing to support someone in crisis. It fundamentally challenges traditional, two-way clinician-patient relationships.

Citizens as leaders and innovators – citizen-led movements in which citizens own responsibility for each others’ well being, not always passing it on to trained professionals.

Example: Torbay Lion’s Barber Collective, an international collection of top barbers using the special trust between hairdresser and customer to engage men about their mental health. An example of innovations that come from, and are given life by, the everyday environments in which people ordinarily live, work, buy, share and socialise.

Whole system redesign – designing and building new interlinking organisations, refocusing investment in early intervention, prevention and community solutions and actively modelling positive human values of compassion, inclusion, recovery and therapeutic optimism.

Example: Trieste, in north-east Italy, almost magically reengineering its entire approach to mental health, blurring the distinction between crisis and community care, achieving great results and creating a vibrant culture of collective ownership of everyone’s mental health.



Supporting Lambeth CCG to shift investment away from secondary/acute services towards early intervention, community interventions and to create new models, including the innovative Living Well Network, to successfully address mental health problems before they become serious enough to trigger demand for specialist care.


We are developing ideas for fantastic new solutions that could have the power to change the way we respond to mental health in the UK and beyond. Our ideas include:

  • A Centre for Innovation in Mental Health, for showcasing, incubating and growing brilliant new interventions.
  • A new charitable vehicle for launching the Lambeth Living Well Network in other parts of the country.
  • A new leadership programme to support talented senior leaders in mental health to successfully deliver change and innovation in their localities.

Join this alliance for change