Today, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) are publishing the findings of a three-year programme of Mental Health Fellowships from around the globe. For the first time evidence from the prestigious Churchill Fellowships in mental health will be shared in a series of dedicated podcasts and briefings available free on the WCMT and MHF websites.
Funded by WCMT and supported by the Mental Health Foundation, the resources are based on the key findings of 59 Churchill Fellows from across the UK who received grants to study projects on the theme of ‘community-based solutions for mental health’. Their findings are grouped under four main headings: Trauma and Adversity; Growing Up and Growing Old; Creativity and Innovation, and Equality and Diversity.
Between them, the Fellows travelled to 17 countries* between 2016 and 2019, investigating examples of best practice in other countries and considering how their learning can be applied in the UK.
The Fellows come from a mix of professions with a wide breadth of experience, ranging from clinical psychologists, prison officers, software developers, military veterans and teachers, to name but a few. From their different perspectives, all have a shared goal: to create a mentally healthier society for all.
This new body of findings and recommendations provides new ideas and insights that can be applied to community mental health provision in the UK. For example, the briefing on Trauma and Adversity brings together the learnings of six Fellows’ research in communities abroad. Dr Karen Treisman visited and reviewed a large number of trauma-informed services in the USA. Since returning to the UK, she has worked with more than 90 organisations to support and enable them to adopt nine principles identified during her Fellowship that are adversity, culturally and trauma-informed.
Within the ‘Growing Up and Growing Old’ theme, Churchill Fellow, Pam Schweitzer, visited Japan to study how arts projects based on sharing reminiscences of the past can help older people living with dementia. She shares insights from an 'Intergenerational Home' in Tokyo which provides comprehensive care both to older people and to infants and young children under the same roof.
Some of the Fellows focused on innovative ways of sustaining good mental health among people in minority groups. Dr Erica Mapule McInnis, Director of Nubia Wellness and Healing, saw how African psychology and an African-centred approach to mental health are commonplace in parts of the US, but rare in the mental health system in the UK.
She says: "It's simply saying we want to use the best of African culture and the best of African thought and practice as a wellness model. That's not to say we can't tap into Eurocentric models. But for many black people these models aren’t healing enough of them quickly enough."
Focusing on digital innovations for grief support, Dr Erin Hope Thompson explored services that are in use across the USA, and was impressed by 'The Dinner Party', a worldwide network helping those who are newly bereaved. Individuals are encouraged to sign up to 'the club nobody wants to join' where they are carefully matched with people in their area who have suffered similar loss. Operating superficially like a dating app, 'The Dinner Party' uses the locally arranged dinners as a sociable way of kick-starting supportive relationships and building community and connection over time.
Learning from these Mental Health Fellowships has important implications for how the NHS, local government and other partners in the four jurisdictions of the UK, design and commission services and projects to improve mental health in our communities.
Julia Weston, Chief Executive of WCMT, said: “This global knowledge exchange with 17 countries by 59 Churchill Fellows is an invaluable resource. We’re delighted to be able to share it for the benefit of everyone with an interest in strengthening mental health across all our communities.”
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Before the coronavirus pandemic, an estimated one in six people experienced a mental health problem every week. Evidence shows that coronavirus and necessary lockdown measures are worsening existing mental health inequalities and that more people will have poor mental health as a result of the pandemic, unless bold preventative action is taken. This work highlights vital learning about the need for mental health responses to be built around the culture and experiences of the many diverse groups affected by poor mental health.
“The Churchill Fellows have done important research into examples of best practice and innovation in other countries, and their work is vital in helping us look at new ways of tackling difficult and under-researched issues. Although these Fellowship visits took place before the pandemic, this learning is highly relevant to addressing the mental health challenges we now face.”
The new series of dedicated podcasts and briefings can be accessed on The Churchill Fellowship website or on our website, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust: Mental Health Fellowships
Notes to editors:
Interviews with the Churchill Fellows are available on request.
To access the full body of research produced by all 59 Churchill Fellows in the Mental Health Fellowship visit WCMT's website at www.wcmt.org.uk.
*Fellows travelled to Australia, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Sweden, USA and Zimbabwe.
About the Mental Health Foundation
The vision of the Mental Health Foundation is good mental health for all. We work to prevent mental health problems, to drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and to support communities, families and individuals to live mentally healthier lives, with a particular focus on those at greatest risk. The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.
WCMT runs the Churchill Fellowships, a programme of overseas research grants exploring global solutions for today's most pressing problems. Fellowships are open to all UK citizens aged 18 or over, regardless of age, background or qualifications and cover topics in every area of society.
Note: The views expressed by the Fellows are their own, not necessarily those of WCMT or the Mental Health Foundation.