From the National Survivor User Network: “In January 2020, Akiko Hart will join NSUN as CEO. Sarah Yiannoullou will be leaving after an amazing 10 years of growing NSUN’s network and working to put our members’ manifesto into action. Below, Akiko introduces herself and shares her hopes for the future of NSUN.
There are many challenges ahead.
User-led groups have been decimated over the last decade. This has had a direct impact on individuals being able to access support which is useful to them – and also on the ability of user-led groups and networks to bid for tenders or access funding. Punitive welfare policies have become entrenched, threatening the dignity and survival of those most in need of support. Cuts have meant that too many cannot access services when they need them – and yet those who do can still encounter neglect and abuse at the sharper end of the mental health system . . .
But there is also hope. There is an enormous survivor, service user and lived experience body of knowledge out there which demands to be heard – and a deep and important history which needs to be preserved. There are countless individuals and user-led groups campaigning and creating change on the ground. Part of NSUN’s role is to support and raise awareness of these initiatives, build the network, and help create more spaces and opportunities where they can flourish. Together we’re stronger: we need to help people find each other and the groups and organisations near them that can make a difference . . .
Large mental health charities now dominate the mental health landscape, both in terms of service provision and ‘speaking for’ people who use mental health services or experience mental health difficulties or distress. This needs to change. My aim is to position NSUN at the heart of mental health policy, centre and amplify the voices of people with personal experience, and fight for the rights-based changes we need to see happen in mental health.”