Summary Briefing: Findings from the Mental Health Fellowships

From 2016 to 2019, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust ran the Mental Health Fellowships programme, funding individuals to travel abroad to learn more about how community-based solutions are being created in response to some of today’s most pressing mental health challenges.

The Mental Health Foundation was the expert partner in this programme, helping to shape its aims, select the successful candidates from hundreds of applicants and provide mentoring to the successful Churchill Fellows. In total, 59 Fellows were chosen to investigate best practice in 17 countries and bring back new evidence and ideas to create positive change in their profession, practice and communities in the UK.


This summative briefing condenses the findings from four themed briefing papers which in turn presented the key findings from the Fellows’ rich body of learning on the overarching themes of: trauma and adversity, creativity and innovation, growing up and growing old, and equality and diversity. Individual summaries of each of the themed briefing papers are presented below.

The conclusion draws together common insights from the fellowships and identifies high-level recommendations for policy and practice in the UK. Additional analysis, recommendations and case-study examples can be found in the Fellows’ reports, available in the links in the Appendix.

What do we mean by community based solutions?

In the context of health, the term “community” has been defined by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as “shorthand for the relationships, bonds, identities and interests that join people together or give them a shared stake in a place, service, culture or activity”. NICE uses community as an umbrella term to cover groups of people sharing a common characteristic or affinity, such as living in a neighbourhood, or being in a specific population group, or sharing a common faith or set of experiences. NICE, Public Health England (PHE), the NHS and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have all identified communities as foundational sites for activity to promote health and wellbeing. The WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 identified the provision of comprehensive, integrated mental health and social care services in community-based settings as one of the plan’s four major objectives.

PHE has argued that there is a compelling case for a shift to more people- and community-centred approaches to health and wellbeing. According to PHE, only through involving communities can health inequalities be addressed. Further, the assets within communities are important building blocks for health that “cannot be ignored”. The term “community-based” is therefore being used in its broadest sense, to include non-clinically based work addressing mental health problems, as well as approaches that involve clinicians.

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