Networks and mental health

1.     What is this research?

We have built on research carried out between 2011 and 2013 in one London Borough and a part of the South West funded through the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme, to map the networks of 150 people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bi-polar . The study was carried out with Plymouth University and it was called the Community Health Networks (CHN) study.

We took forward the unique mapping methodology we developed in this study, within one CCG – Clinical Commissioning Group – in a different London Borough to develop a clinical intervention based upon conversations about people’s connections to people, places and activities. It was funded by the Whole Systems Integrated Care programme from the Department of Health.

mental health map rough 4

Example of a wellbeing network by Darryl Cunningham.

2.     Why is this research important?

Social factors are important in understanding the experience of and recovery from mental health problems.  Many people benefit from strong supportive social networks and from engagement in meaningful activities as well as physical exercise, connections through meaningful places and support from community health services. Yet people with mental health problems remain less likely to be employed, more socially isolated and with poorer physical health than the general population.

At a time when health services are reconfiguring it is important to understand what resources and assets people have in their networks and the balance of formal and informal support that people with mental health problems need and can access.

3.     What did we do?

We worked using a co-production methodology to co-design a new service within primary care. Working with service users, carers, practitioners, health and social care managers and commissioners we developed a wellbeing and connections network based in primary care supporting people with long term mental health needs.


4.     What is the current status of the project?

We started this project, November 2014. We have engaged with service users and practitioners to pilot the wellbeing and connections mapping process that will form the central part of the new wellbeing network. We have also provided consultancy and training around wellbeing network mapping for the staff of the new network now that it is underway.

5.     What next?

We hope to build on this work to develop a way for wellbeing mapping to find its way into mental health services – used by GPs, support workers, care coordinators and by individuals themselves to manage mental health.

6.     Who do I contact for more information?

You can contact the team via

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