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Announcing Mental Health Voice - a new project for Hackney & City

17th August 2017

Image shows close up of Bonnie Studd

Bonnie Studd, who will be the Mental Health User Involvement Coordinator

Mental health services in Hackney and City of London

Approximately 54,300 Hackney and City of London residents aged 19-64 have at least one common mental illness such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. A further 9,030 are reported to suffer from severe and enduring mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and/or other psychoses.

Involving service users in the design of their services, and enabling them to receive support from other past or present service users, can be very beneficial to mental health service delivery. However, a 2013 survey of mental health service users in City and Hackney highlights the need for more peer support groups, social inclusion activities and accessible mental health services in the borough. City and Hackney mental health services have made significant changes their service delivery and innovative ideas such as the creation of a crisis café and service user network have seen the City and Hackney Mental Health Trust labelled “outstanding” by the Care Quality Commission


Mental Health Voice

To continue this great work, The Advocacy Project is setting up a user-led service – Hackney Mental Health Voice – which enables genuine and constructive involvement from people with mental illnesses in City and Hackney. We are developing a User Leadership Committee (ULC) of ten local people who have experienced mental illness to shape the services. The ULC will produce a work plan based on local priorities and create task groups to put it into action. The ULC will also implement a peer mentoring service.

Because service users are at the centre of everything we do, The Advocacy Project has a well-earned reputation for exceptional user involvement and advocacy. For over 15 years we have developed several innovative user-led involvement services based our core belief that people with mental illnesses are ‘experts by experience’. Our Different Voices group – a user involvement inpatient service in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea – has been described by one participant as “a reason for maintaining my wellness.” We are very proud of this: all our user involvement services aim towards recovery, though each poses a different challenge. In Hackney, one likely challenge is to make sure our service is inclusive to all of the diverse cultures within the borough. We are working in partnership with community organisations to develop culturally appropriate engagement techniques and promotional materials.


Meet the new staff who will work on this project

Bonnie Studd, who will be the Mental Health User Involvement Coordinator, is excited to start work on this project. She says, “With so many people being impacted by mental illness in some way it is really important that local mental health services are shaped by people who really understand what’s needed from their own experience. This project will provide people with an opportunity to develop skills, find fulfilment and use their expertise to improve things for others”

Sophie Hudson is joining as the project’s Mental Health Peer Mentoring Worker, and will bring her personal and professional experience of mental health care to the role. She says, “What I find valuable about this kind of project, from my previous roles, is knowing people are actually getting listened to. Those who are in charge of services are actioning what we find so people have access to better services. I’m hoping the mentoring aspect of this project will empower people to have a space in which they can talk with someone they feel comfortable and safe with, and they can get the support they need.”

We look forward to starting this project – working in partnership with others and bringing our expertise to the borough – to enable people with mental health needs to influence decision makers in City and Hackney.