NSUN Open Letter to the Organisers, Partners and Delegates of the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit, London 9th and 10th October, 2018

The National Survivor User Network (NSUN), England has released an open letter to the Organisers, Partners and Delegates of the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit, London – 9th and 10th October 2018. The letter has been signed by around 150 mental health campaigners and organisations from 25 countries, including TCI Asia Pacific, Mad in Asia and many more. It protests the Global Mental Health Summit 2018 being organised by the UK government. If you would like to sign and support the letter, send a mail to info@nsun.org.uk

Open Letter to the Organisers, Partners and Delegates of the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit, London 9th and 10th October, 2018

The UK government is hosting a Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit in London on the 9th and 10th of October, 2018. The Summit aims to “build momentum on global mental health issues such as early intervention, public health, research, tackling stigma, and promoting access to evidence-based services.” The event is set to culminate with a “global declaration committing to political leadership on mental health.” The Summit will also see the launch of the Lancet Commission into the links between mental health and sustainable development.We the undersigned are concerned about the way in which this event has been organised and about the UK positioning itself as a ‘global leader’ in mental health for the following reasons:

  1. The organisation and planning for this event has been a closely guarded secret. Even the full list of countries participating was not released beforehand, which made any possibility of advocacy by civil society organisations in those countries impossible. Significantly, there has been little or no involvement of organisations led by mental health service users, survivors and persons with psychosocial disabilities in the thinking, planning and design of this event. While a few networks were approached to provide ‘experts by experiences’ to attend panels on themes already decided on, there has been no meaningful consultation or involvement of user-led and disabled people’s organisations not already signed up to the ‘Movement for Global Mental Health’ agenda or funding to enable a wide range of representatives to attend. This is in open violation of Article 4 of the UN-Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which obligates signatories to closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities through their representative organisations in decision-making around issues that directly concern persons with disabilities.
  2. The UK’s positioning as the leader in the global effort to tackle mental health needs is highly problematic for a variety of reasons. In 2016, an inquiry by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found that austerity policies introduced by the UK government had met “the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities.” The Committee found high levels of poverty as a direct result of welfare and benefit cuts, social isolation, reduced standards of living, segregation in schools of children, lack of support for independent living and a host of other violations. The situation has had a direct impact on people’s mental health with rates of suicide attempts doubling and widespread destitution.
  3. In the concluding observations on the initial report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Committee raised particular concerns about the insufficient incorporation and uneven implementation of the CRPD across all policy areas and levels within all regions, devolved governments and territories under its jurisdiction and/or control, and about existing laws, regulations and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities.
  4. In the UK, there is a particular situation of discrimination within mental health services that affect its black and minority ethnic communities and migrants from ex-colonial countries and the global south diaspora. Decades of evidence show that they face consistent discriminatory treatment within UK’s mental health services, including high levels of misdiagnosis, compulsory treatment, over-medication, community treatment orders and culturally inappropriate treatment. The inquiry into the death of David Bennett, an African Caribbean man in the care of the state, found the NHS to be institutionally racist. Yet, the UK government has set out to lead the globe in creating inclusive and just societies while continuing to perpetuate a ‘hostile environment’ not only in its health and social care services but in other areas that impact on people’s mental health such as immigration, policing, employment, welfare and so on.
  5. The Summit is set to announce the global launch of the anti-stigma programme, Time to Change, with programmes planned in India, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya. Millions of pounds have already been spent on this campaign which claims to have made a positive impact on mental health stigma, while evidence also shows that there has been no improvement in knowledge or behaviour among the general public, nor in user reports of discrimination by mental health professionals. The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in its concluding remarks, raised particular concerns about perceptions in society in the UK that stigmatize persons with disabilities as living a life of less value than that of others. It also pointed out that existing anti-discrimination legislation in the UK does not provide comprehensive or appropriate protection, particularly against multiple and intersectional discrimination. Given this scenario, it is objectionable that the UK government continues to fund a programme that aims to address stigma while carrying on with the most stigmatising and discriminatory policies that affect persons with psycho-social disabilities.
  6. UK has already taken the lead in exporting the failed paradigm of biomedical psychiatry globally through the ‘Movement for Global Mental Health’. The failure of social contact based anti-stigma programmes to attain any change in structural discrimination and inequalities has not deterred the UK government from supporting the export of another high-cost, low impact programme, with funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Office, to the global south. This model of ‘North leading the South’ recreates colonial ‘missions of education,’ significantly impacting on the development of locally relevant, rights-based discourses rooted in the wisdom of CRPD and led by persons with psychosocial disabilities in the global south.
  7. Many professionals in the field of mental health both in the global southand in the global north have cautioned against the application and scale up of western models of mental health care worldwide. User/survivor groups in the global south have already objected to importing failed western models of mental health care into their countries and called for full CRPD compliance that will enable full and effective participation of service users, survivors and persons with psychosocial disabilities in all aspects of life. This is significant at a time when the Mental Health Act is under review in England and there has been consistent resistance to moving towards CRPD compliant legislation.

Given this scenario, it is hypocritical that the UK government is taking the lead in creating a global declaration on political leadership in mental health.As with the Global Disability Summit this government recently staged, we are seeing an intolerant government posing as the upholder of the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities. The organisation of the Summit is in opposition to the spirit and terms of the CRPD.We ask the participants and delegates of this Summit to:

  1. Reflect upon the issues brought forward in this letter, including existing structural and multiple discrimination against persons with psychosocial disabilities in the UK by its government
  2. Demand a clarification from the UK government on its position on the CRPD and the measures it is taking to uphold the CRPD within its own laws and policies
  3. Ask the UK government to desist from operating in imperial ways that export failed models and methods to the rest of the world which negatively impact on local innovations and ways of working
  4. Campaign to ensure that any declaration created at the Summit is put forward for wide consultation and ratification by the diverse range of user-led and disabled people’s organisations worldwide
  5. Insist that if the UK government wishes to promote mental health in the global south, it must:
    1. Lead by example by changing its domestic laws, policies and practice that currently threaten the lives of mental health service users and survivors in the UK, including its economic and welfare policies that have widened inequalities, made life intolerable for thousands of disabled people and contributed to their deaths.
    2. Acknowledge the knowledge existing within user-led and disabled people’s groups about what works best as well as provide support for user-led services, advocacy and research
    3. Examine its own foreign policies in order to lessen north-south disparities in health standards and its own ethical standards in exporting western mental health systems
    4. Support local, inclusive innovations in the south to address social and structural determinants of health rather than take over leadership
    5. Enable local people to develop services that are for the benefit of the people concerned as subjects rather than objects of development and sustainable without dependence on or interference from rich countries in the West.
  6. Engage with independent civil society groups and not conform to the wishes of the UK government.


  1. National Survivor User Network, England
  2. Recovery in the Bin
  3. Mental Health Resistance Network, UK
  4. Linda Burnip on behalf of Disabled People Against Cuts, UK
  5. North East Mad Studies Collective, England
  6. Transforming Communities for Inclusion – Asia Pacific (TCI-Asia Pacific)
  7. Bapu Trust for Research on Mind and Discourse, India
  8. SODIS (Sociedad y Discapacidad), Peru
  9. National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, USA
  10. North East Together (NEt), England
  11. North East Together (NEt), service user and carer network, UK
  12. NTW Service User and Carer Network, England
  13. Steve Nash, Co-Chair ReCoCo: Recovery College Collective, England
  14. Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (CHRUSP), USA
  15. Akiko Hart, Hearing Voices Network, England
  16. Akriti Mehta, User-researcher, King\’s College London, UK
  17. Alan Robinson, Artist, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  18. Alexandra Reisig, Student (Global Mental Health), UK
  19. Alfred Gillham, ISPS UK
  20. Alisdair Cameron, Launchpad: by and for mental health service users, UK
  21. Dr Alison Faulkner, Survivor researcher, UK
  22. Alvaro Jimenez, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
  23. Andrea Liliana Cortés, Independent activist in human rights and psychosocial disabilities, Colombia
  24. Angela Woods, Durham University
  25. Asmae Doukani, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
  26. Ben Glass, Mental Health Patient
  27. Bev Oliver, Mental Health Service User
  28. Brenda A. LeFrançois, Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
  29. Caitlin Walker, Cambridge University, UK
  30. Carolyn  Asher, Service  user of mental health services, UK
  31. Catherine Campbell, Professor of social psychology, London School of Economics, UK
  32. Dr Cathryn Setz, Associate Visiting Research Fellow, Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford
  33. Che Rosebert, Director – interim external communications, Association of Clinical Psychologists UK
  34. Cheryl Prax, Psychiatric survivor, Speak Out Against Psychiatry (SOAP)
  35. China Mills, Lecturer, University of Sheffield, UK
  36. Chris Hansen, International Peer Support, USA
  37. Claudio Maino, Université Paris Descartes, France 
  38. Corinne Squire, Professor of social sciences, University of East London, UK
  39. Cristian Montenegro, PhD candidate, London School of Economics, UK
  40. Dr Daniel Fisher, Co-founder of the National Empowerment Center, USA
  41. David Harper, Reader and programme director for the professional doctorate in clinical psychology, University of East London, UK
  42. David Orr, Senior lecturer in social work, University of Sussex, UK
  43. Derek Summerfield, Honorary senior clinical lecturer, IoPPN, King\’s College London, UK
  44. Diana Rose, Professor, King’s College London, UK
  45. Dolly sen, Dolly Sen, Writer & Survivor Researcher 
  46. Dominic Makuvachuma, Co-ordinator, Reigniting the Space Project, England
  47. Doreen Joseph, Service user, advocate/researcher/lecturer/writer, UK
  48. Dorothy Gould, Researcher, trainer and consultant with lived experience of mental distress, UK
  49. Duncan Double, Consultant psychiatrist, Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, England
  50. Eamonn Flynn, ISPS UK
  51. Elaine Flores, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
  52. Eleni Chambers, Survivor Researcher, UK
  53. Emma Ormerod, Survivor Researcher, UK
  54. Erica Burman, Professor of Education, University of Manchester, UK
  55. Erica Hua Fletcher, Zorich Fellow in Mental Health Policy, Hope and Healing Center & Institute, USA
  56. Erick Fabris, Psychiatric survivor; Researcher for the Mad Canada Shadow Report, Canada
  57. Ewen Speed, Senior lecturer in medical sociology, Director of research, School of Health & Human Sciences, University of Essex
  58. Farhad Dalal, Psychotherapist, group analyst, and organizational consultant
  59. Fiona Little, MH sufferer, violated for years, UK
  60. Francisco Ortega, Professor of collective health, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  61. Frank Keating, Professor of social work & mental health, Royal Holloway University of London, UK
  62. Gary Heydon, Mental Health Service User
  63. Giles Tinsley, Hearing Voices Network England
  64. Glenn Townsend, Service user of mental health services, UK
  65. Hari Sewell, Independent consultant and author, UK
  66. Helen Spandler, Professor of mental health, University of Central Lancashire; Editor, Asylum magazine, UK
  67. Ian Parker, Emeritus Professor of Management, University of Leicester, UK
  68. Iain Brown, Tortured sufferer at the hands of MH team, UK
  69. Ilma Molnar, London, UK
  70. Janaka Jayawickrama, PhD, Associate professor in community wellbeing, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, UK
  71. Jane Gilbert, Consultant clinical psychologist, UK
  72. Janice Cambri, Founder, Psychosocial Disability-Inclusive Philippines (PDIP), Philippines
  73. Jacqui Narvaez-Jimenez, Carer bullied by the MH team, UK
  74. Jasna Russo, Survivor researcher, Germany
  75. Jayasree Kalathil, Survivor Research, UK
  76. Jen Kilyon, ISPS UK
  77. Jenifer Dylan, Service user involvement facilitator, Camden and Islington Foundation Trust
  78. Jhilmil Breckenridge, Editor, Mad in Asia; Founder, Bhor Foundation, India
  79. John Adlam, Consultant Adult Psychotherapist and Independent Researcher
  80. Joyce Kallevik, Director of Wish
  81. Julie Gosling, Making Waves, Nottingham
  82. Karen Machin, Researcher, UK
  83. Kate Swaffer, Chair, CEO and Co-ordinator of Dementia Alliance International
  84. Katherine Runswick-Cole, Professor of education, University of Sheffield, UK
  85. Lavanya Seshasayee, Psychiatric survivor; Founder, Global Women’s Recovery Movement, Bangalore, India
  86. Leah Ashe, Victim of psychiatry
  87. Leo McIntyre, Chairperson, Balance Aotearoa, New Zealand
  88. Liam Kirk, Member of the service user group of Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster Mind, UK
  89. Lisa Cosgrove, Professor of counselling and school psychology, College of Education and Human Development, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA
  90. Liz Brosnan, Survivor researcher
  91. Luciana Caliman, Professor of psychology, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Vitória, Brazil
  92. Lucy Costa, Deputy executive director, Empowerment Council: A Voice for the Clients of CAMH, Toronto, Canada
  93. Lynn Tang, Assistant Professor, Tung Wah College, Hong Kong
  94. Magda McQueen, human being with rights, UK
  95. Margaret Turner, Secretary, Soteria Network UK
  96. Margerita Reygan, Mother/Carer of mental health service survivor, UK
  97. Mari Yamamoto, User of psychiatry, Japan
  98. María Isabel Canton Rodriguez, Rompiendo la Etiqueta, Nicaragua
  99. Mark Allan, HVN England and North East Mad Studies Collective, England
  100. Melissa Raven, Postdoctoral fellow, Critical and Ethical Mental Health research group (CEMH), University of Adelaide, Australia
  101. Michael Ashman, Survivor of psychiatry, UK
  102. Michael Njenga, Executive Director, Users and Survivors of Psychiatry in Kenya, Kenya
  103. Michelle Baharier, Director of Fruit Cake Creatives and founder of CoolTan Arts
  104. Mick McKeown, University of Central Lancashire, UK
  105. Mohan Rao, Professor (retired), Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
  106. Neil Caron, Mental health Service User
  107. Neil Caton, ISPS UK
  108. Nev Jones PhD, University of South Florida, USA
  109. Nikolas Rose, Professor of sociology, King’s College London, UK
  110. Norha Vera, King’s College London, UK
  111. Paola Debellis Alvarez, Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay; CCC PhD-Forum, Geneva, Switzerland
  112. Patrick Bracken, Consultant psychiatrist, Co Cork, Ireland
  113. Paula Peters, Bromley DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), England
  114. Peter Beresford, Mental health service user/survivor, Shaping Our Lives, UK
  115. Peter Coleman, A family carer for son currently subject to restriction, UK
  116. Phil Ruthen, Survivors Poetry, UK
  117. Philip Thomas, Writer; Formerly consultant psychiatrist and academic, UK
  118. Raúl Silva, Doctoral student, UCL Belgium/Ecuador
  119. Reima Ana Maglajlic, Senior lecturer in social work, University of Sussex
  120. Reshma Valliappan, The Red Door, India
  121. Dr Rich Moth, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Liverpool Hope University UK
  122. Roy Moodley, Associate professor and director of Centre for Counselling & Psychotherapy, University of Toronto, Canada
  123. Ruth Silverleaf, User-researcher, Kings College London, UK
  124. Sami Timimi, Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, England
  125. Sara Haq, Artist
  126. Dr Sarah Carr, Acting Chair, National Survivor User Network, England
  127. Sarah Yiannoullou, National Survivor User Network, Managing Director
  128. Sebastian Lawson-Thorp, UK
  129. Shireen Gaur, Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, UK
  130. Sofía Bowen, PhD candidate, King’s College London, UK 
  131. Stan Papoulias, Assistant director, Service User Research Enterprise, Kings College London, UK
  132. Stephen Jeffreys, Someone with lived experience, UK
  133. Sue Bott, Deputy chief executive, Disability Rights UK
  134. Suman Fernando, Retired psychiatrist, writer and campaigner, UK
  135. Sumeet Jain, Senior lecturer in social work, The University of Edinburgh, UK
  136. Susan Wolfe, Social historian, UK
  137. Sushrut Jadhav, Consultant psychiatrist and clinical senior lecturer in cross-cultural psychiatry, University College London, UK
  138. Steph de la Haye, Mental Health & ME survivor, Chair / founder Survivors of Depression in Transition (SODIT)
  139. Syeda Akther, Research Assistant, University College London, UK
  140. Teisi Tamming, Estonia
  141. Tish Marrable, Senior lecturer in social work, University of Sussex, UK
  142. Tracey Lazard: CEO: on behalf of Inclusion London
  143. Will Hall, Host, Madness Radio; PhD candidate, Maastricht University School of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Netherlands
  144. Zsófia Szlamka, Youth activist, Hungary

If you would like to add your support to the letter please emailinfo@nsun.org.uk

This article was first published on the NSUN website.