International mental health experts meet in the North West to tackle challenges of austerity

(L - R): Paul Baker, IMHCN Secretary; Terry Davies, Consultant, West Wales Action for Mental Health; Salifu Manneh, Director of Mobee Gambia; Neil Campbell, AFG Chief Executive; John Jenkins, IMHCN Chair and Mike Smith, AFG Clinical Director

(L – R): Paul Baker, IMHCN Secretary; Terry Davies, Consultant, West Wales Action for Mental Health; Salifu Manneh, Director of Mobee Gambia; Neil Campbell, AFG Chief Executive; John Jenkins, IMHCN Chair and Mike Smith, AFG Clinical Director

Mental health experts have been meeting in the North West to look at how mental health services can work in different ways to tackle the challenges of austerity, by drawing on experiences of pioneering recovery services from around the world.

The think tank event was hosted by North West charity Alternative Futures Group (AFG) at its head office in Merseyside and facilitated by The International Health Collaboration Network (IMHCN).

Every year, AFG enables more than 1100 people with learning disabilities and mental health needs to be successfully supported to build a life for themselves.

The conference was organised by Mike Smith, Clinical Director (Mental Health) at Alternative Futures Group who was recently elected Vice Chair of the IMHCN, which is a formal network of partner organisations and individuals from across the world who are committed to the twin goals of deinstitutionalisation of psychiatric services and replacing them with a community based approach to mental health.

Speaking at the event he said:

“Budgets for mental health services have, like many other things, been squeezed and it’s necessary to look at how we can continue to deliver quality care for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“It’s useful to hear how colleagues across the world are coping with cuts and share their experiences. It’s vital that mental health providers work together to develop a shared learning set for communities.”

Earlier this year, Alternative Futures Group linked up with Mobee, a Gambian charity, and has been sending groups of support workers to Africa to share their experiences and learn new skills.

Salifu Manneh, Director, of Mobee said:

“This innovative approach to staff development is already delivering real benefits for people here and in Gambia.

“I think the mental health professionals who’ve visited Gambia as part of this partnership are shocked by the lack of resources available to us. Despite this, they have still been able to get involved and help people who need specialist support.

“Sharing knowledge is vital if we are to continue finding new ways and techniques to help people suffering with mental problems across the world.”

More information can be found by visiting www.alternativefuturesgroup.org.uk or by visiting our Facebook page, ‘AFG Support’. You can also follow us on Twitter @AFGSupport

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