About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Traditionally mental health has been approached as an issue which affects individual patients and focused on behaviour change or biomedical means of supporting recovery. However, there is a strong evidence base that shows that social inequalities and injustice are key contributors to mental ill health.

Mental health is worsening. Young people aged 16-24 in England were almost 10 times more likely to report a long- standing mental health condition in 2014 than in 1995 (5.9% vs. 0.6%).

Traditional biomedical approaches tend to isolate mental health from the broader social context. They focus on treatment rather than prevention - often resorting to psychiatric medications rather than other social approaches. This is costly to society, often doesn’t work for individuals and fails to address the root causes of mental ill health.

Who are the movement for social approaches to mental health?

A broad coalition of service user groups and professional organisations of social workers and clinicians has connected together to challenge traditional approaches to mental health. Their aim is to create grassroots solidarity for change in mental health systems. Their demand is to focus more on addressing social inequalities, social justice and promoting self-determination, social support and rights.

At the heart of the movement are people with lived experience of mental distress together with professional groups like Psychologists for Social Change, individual academics and researchers as well as professional bodies like the British Association of Social Workers.

Tackling this health issue

The movement is pushing for:

  • The focus of mental health services to switch to social and relationship-based support (away from biomedical approaches).
  • A recognition of and action on the social determinants of mental ill health.
  • Social justice and human rights within society.

By collaborating across disciplines and uniting multi professional expertise with expertise by experience, the movement will create a coherent approach to tackle systemic challenges.

You can read more about the movement’s approach in this webinar.