Mental health working group

The next meeting of the national KONP/SHA working group will be on zoom on Wednesday 6 September 2023 at 18.30. Any members of KONP or SHA interested in joining should contact Steve Lancashire to be included on the mailing list stevelancs@btinternet

As well as reflecting on developments and challenges in areas where the group members are campaigning, the Group has been looking at how best to raise issues related to the inadequate provision of Talking Therapies (IAPT), emergency mental health bed closures.

Video discussion
Members of the Group have created a Common Ground YouTube channel and to date have created two programmes – discussing mental health work being undertaken in Gateshead and Trieste, Italy. Here is the link to watch those 30 – 45 minute discussions. See

Who are the mental health working group?
The mental health working groups consists of members of KONP and and the Socialist Health Association.

The main activity of the working group has been the writing of A Mental Health Charter as as Manifesto published here.

This manifesto was written by Jude Ellis, Judith Varley, Paul Atkinson and Martin Blanchard (and with a lot of editorial help from Carol Saunders for the last section) over the course of 8-9 months.

Having read several extremely good documents including information from the KONP crisis conference and the SWAN Charter, and noting no great ‘purchaser penetration’, as is said in some circles, and also having careers in mental healthcare of many years (when added together) and therefore having lived and witnessed the long decline, we decided that this relative neglect of subject and services was more than just casual. So, putting together our experience, training and lots of research, and desperately trying to keep it cogent, after several iterations this is what you have.

It is not aimed at a particular audience but exists, we hope, as a potential resource for anyone interested in understanding not just the ‘who and how’ but also the ‘why’ any of us with a mental health problem may feel ostracised and receive a poor service. To understand and try to escape the current ‘blaming of the individual’ we have  examined our current predominant ideology as ‘our reality’ and the harm associated with it.

Section 1 Pulls together some history, philosophy, politics and as you would expect, elements of psychodynamic theory to try to explain attitudes and behaviours towards people with mental illness; the ‘practical barbarism’ of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 laid bodies bare to the full force of the marketplace, and marketisation of NHS healthcare has been a passion for certain politicians holding particular views for decades now, and may finally reach its conclusion. Our politics of exclusion and the ‘manipulation of reality’ by capitalism with its requirement for continuous growth block any ideas of founding a truly inclusive society.

Section 2 Outlines the causal effects of our current global hegemonic system on mental health, with examples from government policy affecting levels of poverty, homelessness, and imprisonment; cuts to welfare benefits, the rise of a workfare ideology, denial of racism within state institutions and services, planned austerity, the exploitation of crises with private benefit at public cost- and all the time chasing surplus value.  

Section 3. Is a note on the failure to achieve adequate mental health care provision in terms of resources and staff for hospitals and the community. Mental distress is increasingly seen as due to individual inadequacy: in some way not being ‘able enough’ to cope with life’s vagaries; or due to certain disorders of the brain or genes or biochemistry best treated with Pfizer et al’s products.

The idea that their economics and society may cause such distress is of course inconvenient for those who benefit greatly from the status quo.

Section 4 The final, major section is about needs and is in line with other Charters. However, the foundation of ours is an amazingly detailed piece of work by Judith Varley which was skilfully edited by Carol Sanders and then uncomfortably squeezed into what is the ‘living’ part of the document. It is long because there is so much that could be improved with better finance, estates, staffing, training, communication, attitudes and ways of working. We want it to get shorter but we are happy to take and consider amendments to it as ideas develop and services change, or if more detail is needed, and also to make it longer if more services are lost or more care actively denied.

Download/view in full A Mental Health Charter as as Manifesto here.