Towards Community Mental Health and Citizenship

Whole Person - Whole Life -  Whole Systems 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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); the World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR); The International Network for Training Education, Research into Hearing Voices (INTERVOICE); and with our partner organisations, national ministries, and non-governmental organisations.

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Organisation and Founder Partners

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 history of network is that was was started in 1993 as an informal group and then was established in 2004 under French Law as an international NGO 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 IMHCN is now a UK charitable company established in March 2014. 

IMHCN has 19 founder partners from across the world who have established the newly constituted organisation. 

IMHCN was established in 1993 by organisations and individuals that wished to develop community mental health services and to close psychiatric institutions. At this time the founder members vision was to seek new ways to improve the lives of people with mental health issues. Twenty years later the vision of our founder members and their significant and important contributions has led to the sustainability and on going development of IMHCN.

In March 2014 we relaunched the Network with its current members as a UK based charitable company limited by guarantee. We also took this opportunity to establish new partnerships with interested organisations that will work with us to achieve our aims and objectives as set out in our charter (see link).

The current and newly invited founder partners will constitute the relaunched IMHCN and will enables us to continue the three main strands of our work:

  • To campaign for the closure of psychiatric institutions through the development of comprehensive community mental health services.
  • The development of Whole Life - Whole System Community approach by developing Strategies and implementing them through partnership working with local communities harnessing their strengths, resilience and resources.
  • To promote and provide opportunities for people with mental health issues and their families to develop their own recovery plans through self determination, autonomy and a full recognition of their assets.

Members have agreed to:

  • Sign up to the Charter of Purpose and Action
  • Share information about the implementation of Whole Life – Whole Systems practice within their organisation and their community partners with the Network
  • Provide a short description of service provision. Identify good practices in community mental health and recovery approaches that are useful to share with other members and enable the network to build a resource library
  • Participate in Twinning Collaboration Agreements (see here)
  • Prepared to host occasional international schools on specific topics of interest to the membership
  • Prepared to contribute and participate in IMHCN conferences, symposiums and workshops
  • Identify individuals who would be prepared to provide expertise and contribute to our international developmental work.
  • Spread knowledge of the work of IMHCN through seeking potential new partners and members in your region and/or country

The current partners as of 2023 are:

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 Board Members

The current elected Board Members (Trustees) of the IMHCN are as follows

Tom Cahill 

Country: England

Background: Tom is the director of Learning Disabilities and Autism at NHS England. Tom was Chief Executive of Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and was in post from  2009 - 2021. He previously worked across a number of mental health organisations in the capacity of Director of Nursing, Performance and Strategy. Tom is a qualified mental health nurse and feels this experience enhances his ability to carry out his current role.
Tom is committed to improving services for service users and their carers and has embarked on a major transformation programme in the Trust which is designed to provide better experiences, improved access and a higher quality of service for service users in the long term.


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Jørn Eriksen

Country: Denmark

Background: Psychiatric nurse manager, trainer, consultant, writer, publisher. Jørns entire working career has been centred on psychiatry in areas such as social psychiatry, district psychiatry, psychotherapy, alcoholism and adolescent psychiatry.
He’s originally trained as a nurse. Afterwards, he took a diploma in management and a professional diploma in Human Resource Development.
Currently, he is a director of the social psychiatric services in Lyngby – taarbæk municipality. Which include housing, support at home, acute service, self-help groups, supported work, social firms, and educations programs est. The services in Lyngby – taarbæk municipality is in the Danish context a pioneering bid for recovery-oriented work (www.slotsvaenget-ltk.dk).
Jørn is the initiator of the creation of the Danish Voice Hearers Network, and has been on the board since its inception.He was also in the initiative group who founded the Danish Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation.
Jørn was the first Dane to be invited to join International Mental Health Collaborating Network (Whole Life – Whole System) and he is now a member of the international advisory board. This network consists of people and organizations who have specific skills in relation to work on recovery processes.
Jørn has been President and Vice President of the Academic Society of Psychiatric Nurses for 8 years. For 7 years he was a columnist in the magazine nurse, and has regularly written articles for magazines and newspapers.
Jørn has for many years been a sought after speaker and an active community debater home and abroad in relation to the circumstances of mental health issues. In addition he works as a consultant for institutions wishing to work diligently with recovery processes.

Interests: Hearing voices, recovery, management change

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Margaret Fleming 

Country: Ireland

Background: Margaret Fleming RPN, FFNRCSI, MSc has worked in mental health services in Ireland for the past 31 years. She is a Fellow of the Faculty of Nursing, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and holds an MSc in Health and Social Services Management from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. At present she is working as Clinical Co-ordinator with Monaghan Community Mental Health Team, which is a multidisciplinary team providing mental health services to a rural population in County Monaghan. Margaret and her team work in close collaboration with Primary Care Services and voluntary and statutory agencies. She has been at the forefront of designing, planning and restructuring this new service model now known both nationally and internationally as The Monaghan Model. She has been actively involved in establishing a resource centre, which is service user driven and also in the development of a mental health promotion programme for young adults. This programme has been accredited by Mental Health Europe as best practice in mental health promotion for young adults. Margaret is the Irish project leader with the "Whole Life Project" which is a joint project between the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Network. She is also currently working as a consultant with the World Health Organisation involved in the restructuring of mental health services in Albania.

Topics: Whole-life recovery

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Vladimir Jovic (elected 21st March 2014)

Country: Serbia

Background: Vladimir Jović, is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, human rights activist and researcher working in Belgrade, Serbia.

Since 1993 Vladimir has worked on projects related to psychosocial assistance to refugees in the Soros Foundation, the Stress Clinic, Institute of Mental Health in Belgrade (in collaboration with UNHCR) and the International Aid Network in cooperation with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and Cordaid.

In 1997 he was one of the founders of the International Aid Network (IAN; www.ian.org.rs ), a local non-governmental and non-profit organization that is specialised in providing psychosocial help to vulnerable groups (such as refugees, torture victims, people living with HIV / AIDS, mentally ill, people with developmental problems), and since then in the IAN he worked on several programs as a psychiatrist, coordinator or project manager, and from 2006 until 2010 he was the Executive Director of the IAN.
Since 2003 until 2008 Dr Jović was the Project Country Manager for Serbia in Mental health projects of Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe: "Enhancing social cohesion through strengthening of mental health in South-Eastern Europe" (2003-2008),and "Establishment of regional networks and systems for collecting and exchange of information on health and social care "(2005-2006), which were aimed at transformation of old psychiatric institutions into community mental health care. From 2008 he worked as a consultant on the program "Development of integrated mental health and social services for the model region" which is being implemented in collaboration with Global Initiative in Psychiatry (GIP), IAN, Special Psychiatric Hospital “Gornja Toponica”, Nis, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Republic of Serbia. From 2010 he is the members of the Board of the International Mental Health Collaboration Network (IMHCN).

Since 2001 Dr. Jović was working as the Medical Director at the Centre for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (CRTV) in IAN, financed by the European Commission. CRTV is today continuously financed by the European Commission, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture(UNVFVT), and cooperates with the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) in Copenhagen and a network of Centres for Prevention and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims. CRTV provides comprehensive rehabilitation of torture victims (victims of war-related torture and victims of police or institutional torture).
Since 2004 until 2006 he worked as the Director of the "Redress in Action" programme, aimed at providing medical, psychiatric / psychological and legal assistance to refugees who were forcibly mobilised, as well as coordinating advocacy activities. Since 2006 until 2008 he was the coordinator of the project "Prevention through Documentation" (IPIP2) to implement the Istanbul Protocol for the Prevention of Torture, in collaboration with the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).

From June 2009 he is a member of the Expert Council for the protection of persons deprived of their liberty of the Protector of rights of citizens of Republic of Serbia (Ombudsman), where he is working to establish a system for monitoring of prisons, social and psychiatric institutions. Since 2011 he works as an expert for the National Preventive Mechanism which is operative within the Office of Protector of Citizens of Republic of Serbia.
As a consultant he worked for the Helsinki Committee in Serbia (the monitoring of social services), office of the OSCE Mission to Serbia (Capacity Development Office of the Protector of citizens' rights), Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (mental health care in prisons), Latvian Centre for HumanRights (Monitoring Places of Detention in Montenegro), Council of Europe (health care system in prisons in the Russian Federation).


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Salifu Manneh 

Country: England/Gambia

Background: Salifu was born and brought up in the Gambia. He studied and received his university education in the UK. Salifu is a registered mental health nurse and holds a diploma in nursing, Bsc Nursing and Msc Health Sciences. He is registered with Manchester Metropilitan University initially for a Master of Philopsophy with a view to work towards a Phd in health and social care. Salifu is the clinical audit/clinical effectiveness lead for the Alternative Futures Group (AFG). He is a board member of the IMHCN.

Salifu is also the Director of Mobee a mental health NGO based in Gambia. In association with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Mobee support workers are now working alongside ministry of health staff to support both inpatient and community mental health services in the West Coast Region. The national country mental health coordinator and his directorate are supportive of Mobee work. Mobee also works in partnership with UK charities to fund study tours. Mobee and AFG have worked in partnership to successfully deliver 3 study tours to the Gambia to enhance staff skills and knowledge in self- leadership and personal development.
He is interested in football and supports Manchester United, an active member of the Gambia social welfare organisation in Leeds and the Sukuta welfare society. Both organisations promote integration in the United Kingdom and good local community cohesion.

Interests: International partnerships, community mental health, personal development.

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Roberto Mezzina 

Country: Italy

Background: Roberto was the Director of Mental Health, Trieste psychiatrist, contributing for the last 30 years to the experience begun by Franco Basaglia in Trieste (who inspired the Italian Mental Health Reform Law in 1978), with the de-institutionalization of the local psychiatric hospital and the subsequent development of alternative Community Services.
For over 20 years he headed a comprehensive, 24-hour Community Mental Health Centre. From 2009 he was the Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training, Department of Mental Health, Trieste, which aims to support deinstitutionalisation and development of community based services world wide and to support government reform policies (in the last twelve months this has included work in Denmark, Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand among others). He supports the International Mental Health Collaborating Network (he is currently Vice-President).
His professional experience and scientific production includes de-institutionalization, organization of community services, crisis intervention, integrated approach to the therapy of psychosis, community care, rehabilitation, user involvement, research and epidemiology, epistemology, quality assurance and critical forensic psychiatry. He has been invited as teacher, keynote speaker and expert in hundreds of Scientific Institutes, Universities, Mental Health Services in Italy, Europe (Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Serbia, Greece, Finland, Romania, Albania) and overseas (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Iran).


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Mike Smith

Country: England

Background: Mike is the Deputy Chairman of IMHCN. He is now the Director of Nursing at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. He was the Clinical Director of the Alternative Futures Group, Liverpool. Mike was a former Director of Nursing for the NHS and consultant for the World Health Organisation (WHO). He has developed and implemented mental health services in over 30 countries, including Asia, Africa and North America. He also gained the prestigious title of ‘UK Nurse of the Year’.

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Paul Baker, Secretary

Country: England

Background: Community development worker, co-founder Hearing Voices Network England. Paul Baker is a community development and group worker. He has a Post-graduate Diploma in Community Education, specialising in working with young people and people with mental health problems. Paul has worked in the health care and education sectors for the last 30 years. He had the responsibility for developing innovative mental health care services in the community. These include services run by the people who use them, self-advocacy services, supported housing services, social firms and enterprises as well as the development of forums for people to enable them to have a direct input in the development and running of services. For fifteen years Paul was the chairperson of a large housing association for homeless people in Manchester.
Paul was one of the founding members of the Hearing Voices Network in England and is currently the coordinator of INTERVOICE, the influential coordinating body for the international hearing voices movement. He also specialises in assisting organisations in harnessing and developing online communities to complement and support their work. Most recently Paul has worked with the Mental Health Foundation, Working to Recovery, Radish Online Ltd, the Scottish Hearing Voices Network.
He has a special interest in working with groups of people to find ways of help themselves overcome difficulties and problems. He also has a strong commitment to forging international partnerships in the development of progressive and effective mental health services.
Paul has published books and written chapters and articles for many publications on mental health issues. He provides consultancy services, lectures and trains on empowerment and recovery issues and the relationships these have to effective mental health service delivery.

Interests: Hearing voices e.g. setting up and running hearing voices groups; community development and mental health.

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John Jenkins, Chief Executive

Country: UK

Background: John has worked in community mental health development for 50 years as a clinician,manager,policy maker, educator and consultant.
He qualified in South Wales in the 1960’s and 1970‘s as an RMN, SRN, Diploma in Health Studies,MBA and worked at the Cassel Hospital, London gaining a Diploma in Psychotherapy.
In 1976-1989 he was the General Manager of Devon Health Authority, developing the first comprehensive mental health service in the UK resulting in the closure of 3 psychiatric institutions.
He then became a senior policy adviser in the Department of Health reviewing previous mental health policies and formulating new policies, strategies and initiatives.
In 1992 he established and directed the Center for Mental Health Services Development at Kings College, London.This was established by the DoH to assist in the implementation of national mental health policy across England.
He was the Director of Operations and Service Development at North Birmingham Mental Health Trust that pioneered the mental health community functional teams that later became national policy and implemented throughout England.
Together with colleagues across the world he established the International Mental Health Collaborating Network(IMHCN) in 1993, an International NGO and is the current Chief Executive.
He has been a mental health adviser to Ministries of Health and Health Authorities in: Australia, New Zealand, India, Malaysia, Serbia, Romania, France, Italy, Ireland, Argentina.
He has been a senior consultant for WHO in Kosova,Albania and Macedonia and for 6 years was the Mental Health Program Manager for WHO in Palestine.
He has been a Senior Lecturer on Mental Health policy and reform at Brunel University and Kings College in London and in others around the world over the last 30 years.
He provides consultancy and training on Whole Person, Whole Life-Whole Systems Community Development in the UK and other countries.

Interests: Introducing and cementing Whole Life Recovery practice within services, practice and policy.

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Method of work

The Network achieves 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 an annual think tank conference and organises symposiums, learning sets and workshops in partnership with member organizations around the world.

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

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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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