Last week, residents and staff in our Lewisham Mental Health Supported Housing service were joined by local MP Ellie Reeves and Cllr Chrishni Reshekaron for a discussion on mental health reform.

It was a candid but inclusive conversation, with powerful testimonies provided by several of our residents about their own journeys through the mental health system and the changes they would like to see. A greater focus on preventative treatment and community intervention was a common theme; three residents disclosed having to reach crisis point (including suicide attempts) before they were able to access any support, whilst one had experienced 7 years of sections and hospital admissions before he was offered any form of psychological treatment.

The group also highlighted that the barriers to accessing care in the community were stigmatising, inconsistent and unfair. One resident had been told he was ineligible for treatment as he had no fixed address, another was allegedly refused counselling because he was deemed not to be engaged in purposeful activity. A third resident who had made huge progress had finally made it onto the waiting list for talking therapies after 6 months of trying. All had experienced disruptions in their support due to high staff turnover.

Our thanks to Ellie and Chrishni for listening and asking insightful questions. The notes from the session will be fed into Luciana Berger’s review of mental health services for Labour. We call for all political parties to make a manifesto commitment to finish the job of reforming the Mental Health Act, however the changes must go further than legislation. Our approach to mental health care is outdated, stigmatising and exceptionally expensive.

We ask the next government to conduct a full review of our system and explore models of best practice from home and abroad. We have an opportunity to transform our mental health system to one that is evidence-based, humane and ensures equity of access. We cannot afford to waste it.

Adam Moll​​​​, Director of External Affairs