"Towards Community Mental Health and Citizenship"

Whole Person - Whole Life -  Whole Systems 


The IMHCN is an International Non Governmental Organisation founded by Mental Health Organisations and individuals who have developed good practices and services in community mental health based on the whole life whole system approach. Its membership consists of professionals, managers, service users and experts of experience, family members, policy makers from many countries.

The IMHCN is a UK charitable company established in March 2014. Previously IMHCN was registered as a community organisation under French law in Lille, France.

The network was founded in 2004 by Trieste Health Authority, Italy; Lille EPSM, France; Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust, UK; Stockholm Mental Health Services, Sweden; Asturias Mental Health Services, Spain and Monaghan and Cavan Mental Health Services, Ireland.

The founder partners (2014) were:

  • Trieste Health Authority, Italy
  • Lille EPSM, France
  • Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Hearing Voices Cymru, Wales
  • Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Plymouth Community Healthcare CIC, England
  • Lyngby Municipality, Denmark
  • Hospital Permai, Joho Bahru, Malaysia
  • WALSH Trust, Auckland New Zealand
  • Alternative Futures Group, Liverpool, England
  • Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, Wales
  • Plymouth and District Mind, Plymouth, England
  • St. Vincents Healthcare, Sydney, Australia


The good practice and experiences of the IMHCN came from deinstitutionalisation processes and practicalities, that is not only downsizing or even closing psychiatric hospitals, but undertaking a complex process of removing the ideology and power of the institution by putting the person first - with his/her subjectivity, needs, life story, significant relationships, social networks, social capital - above the institution.

In order to do that, it is necessary to remove the power of institutions over people with mental health problems. This requires a shift of resources from hospitals to a range of community based services founded on the whole life needs of the person. This approach opens pathways of care and programmes that integrate social and health responses and actions. Deinstitutionalisation is therefore a whole change of systems, thinking and practice, that aims at overcoming the old psychiatric ideology while creating a new way of supporting community mental health and taking better care of people with mental health problems.

Further reading on this can be found in our Foundation Document.

Our purpose

The purpose of the Collaborating Network is to bring together places, services and practices that have been successful in developing good quality community mental health, with those that are in the process of implementing change. With the support of a continuous learning collaboration, organisations and individuals can benefit from others' experiences.

The IMHCN charter of purpose and actions sets out the values and principles that support the work of the network in promoting the human rights of service users, the standards and actions required to develop a community mental health service that will improve the lives of people with mental health problems.

Our vision

Our vision is a world which respects and values the differences between individuals, enabling people who experience mental health issues, with appropriate supports, to lead fulfilling and productive lives using their strengths to contribute as full citizens and enrich our societies.

Our mission

The mission of the IMHCN is promote and advocate for the human rights of people with mental health issues; to understand and gather the experiences and knowledge of good practice in community mental health from its membership and to disseminate this rich resource throughout the world.

Our aims & objectives

  • The development and sustainability of community mental health services founded on the whole person, whole life needs and developing a community system, integrated with widespread ownership  and capable of meeting the identified needs of individuals and the community.
  • Deinstitutionalisation, by closing the psychiatric hospital, as well as changing the common psychiatric practice of only responding to the "illness" and instead focussing on the whole person needs.

The aim of the Collaborating Network is to assist places, services and practices that wish to change and develop. We collaborate with the

World Health Organisation (WHO);

World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR)

The International Network for Training Education, Research into Hearing Voices (INTERVOICE)

World Federation for Mental Health

Mental Health Europe

European Community based Mental Health Service Providers Network (EUCOMS)

Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Networks (GAMIAN)

Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI)

Italian Society of Psychiatric Epidemiology (SIEP)

Transforming Australia’s Mental Health Service System, Incorporated

Method of work

The Network will achieve its aims through interconnected activities that facilitate shared learning, service development and innovation promoting whole life recovery practices. This is being achieved by holding conferences and symposiums; international schools, training workshops and learning sets; study visits; work placements; and twinning with  organisations with similar values, principles and experiences. We have an internet based forum on LinkedIn and a website.

Conferences and workshops in Whole Life Whole System Approach, Recovery into Practice,  Community Mental Health  Development. The IMHCN holds a think tank conference and organises symposiums, learning sets, workshops and webinars in partnership with member organisations around the world.

Webinars As a part of the IMHCN International Learning, Developing and Training School we hold online webinars to support the transformation of mental health in many countries.

Strategic and Practice Development The IMHCN provides a range of tailored services and products including training and consultancy designed to assist communities, organisations and individuals to transform the thinking and culture of psychiatric services with a focus on the whole life needs of people.

International Twinning Collaboration Agreements between Mental Health Organizations These are formal agreements to work together and exchange staff in small groups on specific developments learning from good practice and a recovery based approach.

Training and education Providing technical expertise in participative and interactive outcome based training for professionals, managers, service users, families and policy makers. This includes: Whole Life Recovery practice; Community mental health strategic development; Management of change; Innovation in person centred support; Community Development approaches to mental health planning

International Schools, Study Visits and Exhange Programmes Four Season International schools bring together a small group of people for an intensive residential shared learning experience focused on the work and practice of the host organisation. We also organise short study visits and exchange programmes within our memebrs partnerships

Foundation of the IMHCN

Thirty years ago a number of individuals and organisations developed an informal network to share experiences about  the development of community mental health and the closure or running down of psychiatric institutions. They came together because they shared a common view of philosophy, the need to share good practice and as well the frustrations and problems they accounted. They supported each other in a time of early policy formulation and implementation.

Conferences and workshops were held in different places in the world that identified many centers of innovative and creative work in community mental health services and practice.

In 2004 it was decided to develop the informal network into an International NGO and thus the IMHCN was formed.

The founder members who constituted the first executive board can be found here.

The IMHCN devised and published a Foundation Document that set out its purpose, mission, values and principles. The Foundation Document can be downloaded here.

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