Values-based Practice in Public Mental Health Network

Values-based Practice in Public Mental Health Network

Network Leads

Background and Aims

Public mental health is a rapidly expanding area of interdisciplinary research, linking academics, charitable foundations, NGOs and policy makers. At its core, public mental health aims to improve overall population mental health, and – relatedly – to reduce the prevalence of mental illness amongst individuals. Public mental health has moved from a primary focus on preventing psychiatric disorders through early identification of symptoms and treatment of mental illness through psychiatric services to a greater understanding of the broader bio/psycho/social causes of poor mental health, including diagnosed psychiatric conditions. In the area usually identified as common mental disorders (often referred to as ‘CMD’ - for example depression, anxiety, phobias); there has been significant progress in developing community level responses that address environmental factors rather than focussing on treating individuals with a diagnosis.


The network has been established to put values-based practice at the core of developing thinking in this area. It aims to brings together a strong partnership of philosophers, practitioners and activists with a shared ambition to shift thinking away from the idea of individual illness towards an approach which takes into account the broader context of wellbeing, public mental health and population mental health; recognising the importance of communities, relationships and the impact of inequalities and power relationships. There have been interesting developments in population mental health and wellbeing. It has been recognised that wellbeing is important; and that it is possible for policy and practice to have an impact on this. It has also become apparent that wellbeing (like pretty much everything) is not evenly distributed across whole populations. Research into mental health, and into psychiatry more broadly, has illustrated that there are a heterogeneous range of factors which can predispose one, or heighten one’s risk, of suffering from mental ill health, all of which must be taken into account in the design of a public mental health strategy. What guides the design of a public mental health approach, and indeed the inclusion of those with lived experience in mental health care design and treatment methodologies, is dependent upon mediation of differing values. Values-based practice, in it’s  approach to public health, and to healthcare, purports to offer ways of competing values being accommodated, and a number of practical guides exist, offering support for clinicians adopting a VBP approach. However, clinicians and those with lived-experience disagree often, leading to debates around values, and how best to proceed with preventative and recovery-focused interventions. For instance, how should public mental health accommodate the positive experience reported by many with the lived experience of a severe and enduring mental illness (SMI) of their symptoms? Philosophers have contributed to the debates surrounding the ‘Mad Activism’ movement, and these and related areas will be considered.   This shift of thinking and practice has not, however, been apparent for areas typically described as severe and enduring mental illness (often abbreviated to ‘SMI’), this would include diagnoses such as bipolar disorder (previously manic depression), schizophrenia, personality disorder or even eating disorders, and may also include “symptoms” associated with diagnoses like paranoia, self-harm or hearing voices. We also aim to establish mechanisms for shared decision-making to take place at all levels from community development to individual care planning. Additionally, lacunas in our theoretical understanding of concepts central to an efficacious public mental health approach such as quality of life, and indeed, mental health, mean that development of public mental health literature bases are very much in their infancy.

How to join the network

To join the network please contact the Network Leads for more information

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WikiVBP Reference Library

The wikiVBP Reference Library aims to provide a focused resource of literature and other materials supporting training, research and policy developments in values-based practice.

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Key Areas of Collaboration

Core activities of the Centre are based around three inter-linked areas, Education, Regulation and Integration, together with crosscutting themes of Theory and Practice

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Values Based Social Care

We are delighted to collaborate with MASIS on a social model of care as the key link between health and social care.

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Values-based Surgical Care

Values-based practice in surgery is an innovative approach to decision making in surgery, linking science with people.


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Training Materials and Resources

The CUP Book Series

Cambridge University Press has a VBP book series.

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