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Social justice in Mental Health

World Mental Health Day – “Helping each other help ourselves”

10 October 2007

Dear friend, associate or member,

As many of you will be aware today is World Mental Health day and no day better to update you on the progress that Stand to Reason has made since I last wrote to you in its efforts to tackle stigma and discrimination in the workplace.

As part of our response to World Mental Health day we have collaborated with the Guardian to produce a major multi-media project with podcasts and interviews of eight of our members’ experiences of mental ill health at work. The material is being edited now for publication on 24th October 2007 on the Guardian website and in the newspaper.

At many of the forums, conferences and events and discussions that we have participated in since we started our campaign, very well-intentioned people have spoken on behalf of people with mental health conditions to an extent that would be simply unconscionable if gay rights or the concerns of the physically disabled were being discussed. “Nothing about us, without us!” is our call to policy-makers as we work to help people help themselves.

Key developments have been as follows:

  • Our website was launched in June 2007 to coincide with a very successful event for our new campaign “Breaking Glass Ceilings” in the workplace.
  • The format for the launch was a breakfast briefing meeting that highlighted the often under-reported issue of mental illness as it affects people who are in senior positions within their respective fields. People from government, third sector organisations, business and journalists joined our members to discuss how mental illness affects people from all walks of life and how this could be key to creating a more open and inclusive society.
  • David Brindle, Editor of the Society Section of the Guardian covered the launch and his interview with me can be accessed from,,2106456,00.html
  • The response to the article in the Guardian and through our website was both very inspiring and quite literally overwhelming. Hundreds of people wrote to us with their own personal stories and many with offers of support either by donating time or money or by wanting to volunteer for Stand to Reason.
  • The board held a full day strategy session in the summer to respond to the challenge of designing services and campaigns that can best capture this energy and enthusiasm. I am pleased to say that our plans are now sufficiently developed so that we will write to everyone who volunteered shortly with further details about how to get involved.
  • The Charity was registered with the Charities Commission in August 2007.
  • An additional five trustees have recently been recruited to our board complementing the existing expertise, contacts and skills of the first five trustees.
  • Stand to Reason attended party political conferences where we made further connections with ministers and shadow ministers for health, mental health and work and pensions as well as senior people from other mental health organisations. Networking within the mental health sector has continued at a fast pace and we have attended events including the Employers Engagement Forum, a TUC conference on retaining and recruiting people with mental health conditions and the Mayor of London’s Disability conference.
  • Other PR includes interest in working with us from a television production company and other articles which have appeared in specialist magazines: the first “One in Four” was distributed to libraries and GP surgeries in London and throughout the country via the Mind Local Associations and the second Disability Now, available on the web

A “well-balanced workforce”

We think it is nothing short of a scandal that there is 80% unemployment of people with mental health conditions (rising to over 90% for people who have used in-patient services), given that so many want to return to work and would be capable of doing so. We have to ask ourselves the question why there is so little demand from employers when we already have compelling evidence of the success of supply-side programmes to get people back into and retain work. Individual Placement and Support, for example, has been shown to assist 58% of people with even serious ongoing mental health conditions get back to work.

Our diagnosis is to focus our efforts on tackling the fear, ignorance and discrimination that is experienced at work, and we now have a clear strategy for delivering our first user-led services challenging stigma and discrimination. Work has begun on designing a suite of products aimed at senior management, line managers and HR, respectively. The plan is for people who have made good recoveries to work alongside professional trainers providing a practical and common-sense approach to real-life challenges and solutions. The programme will be highly visible to all employees to ensure that people feel safe and confident about approaching their line-manager and at an earlier stage, to allow for effective management of stress and mental health at work.

The scientific evidence on stigma shows that education and rational argument only go so far in changing attitudes. What seems to be most effective in defeating the pernicious idea that people who suffer from mental ill-health are tarnished and will never recover is face-to-face contact with people who can clearly demonstrate their own competency and value to a business after recovery.

We plan to work with a leading research centre to assess the impact of a pilot programme, so that we have an evidence base to argue for a roll out on a larger scale with the support of funding and Government support as appropriate.

Strategy and funding

Overall the emphasis has been to keep our organisation low on bureaucracy and fleet of foot, to enable us to campaign effectively and to partner where possible with larger organisation(s) that are better suited to providing certain parts of the services. Confidential and detailed discussions are now being held with a prospective partner and we will widely publicise our programme as and when these developments are finalised. The Board will meet again on 16 October to approve the 12 month strategic plan that has been developed.

The funding strategy has been developed alongside the design of services which we intend to provide to employers on a not-for-profit consultancy basis. It is our intention that our model will reassure grant-making organisations that the organisation has a sustainable and sound financial structure and that they will be able to prime the pump of our initial activities without being expected to provide funds on an ongoing basis.

Welcome to the new trustees

We are delighted that the following people have agreed to join the Board of Stand to Reason:

  • Anne Beales is the Director of the Service User Directorate and Fundraising at Together (Formerly the Mental After Care Association). Together is a leading mental health charity providing support around 3500 people through more than 100 mental health services around the country
  • Rachel Perkins, a service user and Clinical Director of the Adult Mental Health Services at St George's Mental Health Trust, formerly a member of the Disability Rights Commission's Mental Health Action Group and National Social Inclusion Implementation Team.
  • Dr Liz Miller, co-founder of the Doctor’s Support Network and a frequent columnist for “Pendulum” the magazine of MDF the Bipolar Organisation, has long experience of self-management of mental illness and expertise in emotional literacy, diet and exercise.
  • Mike Mills, is a highly-experienced journalist who has been Television Editor and Features Editor at the Times and before that the Editor of London’s What’s On Magazine and strengthens our PR and communications offering.
  • Robert Westhead, works for SHIFT the government programme to tackle stigma and discrimination, where he is responsible for the media and communications having previously worked as a national news journalist for five years, latterly at the national press agency, the Press Association.
Forthcoming events
  • Liz Miller and I are both speaking at the 5th National Bipolar Conference (an all day event) at the Institute of Physics, 76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT on 5 December 2007;
  • I am speaking at a TUC conference at Congress House on disabilities in the South East later this year – date to be confirmed.
  • The London Chamber of the Junior Chamber International (JCI) a networking organisation for young business leaders has offered to work with us to create an exciting mental health awareness and fundraising event in February next year.
Other events are being planned and further details will be released shortly.

Newsletter and website

Since I last wrote to you many have offered to tell your stories either anonymously or on the record to bring the issues alive in our newsletter on our website. We have also received the kind support from the Mind young journalist of the year and several other members who are also professional journalists. Now that we have completed the multi-media work for the Guardian we will be in touch with you shortly to build upon this material.

We are considering working with a contract publisher to bring you a more professional product on a quarterly basis without diverting too much of our resources at an early stage for the organisation. We would also be delighted to hear from any volunteers who are proficient in IT who would be interested in working to develop the material on the website so that it is kept current and relevant.


…. a very big thank you to everyone who has contributed to Stand to Reason during these early months and for your patience as we develop into an organisation that is capable of delivering real social change.

In the workplace we have set ourselves the following ambitious goal. If people with experience of mental ill health themselves don’t demand this of society, it is likely that discrimination and ignorance will continue to be very widespread.

With your help in 10 years time we wish to see every employer in the land be aware of mental health problems and committed to ensuring that their employees are given all the support they need to be happy and well at work.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Naess



[email protected]