Our vision and beliefs

The McPin Foundation exists to transform mental health research by putting the lived experience of people affected by mental health problems at the heart of research methods and the research agenda

Our mission

To champion experts by experience in research, so that people’s mental health is improved in communities everywhere

Our vision

A world where the value of expertise based upon experience is recognised and is at the heart of all stages of mental health research

Our core values

1. We passionately believe involving people directly affected by mental health problems improves research

2. We are driven to produce work of the highest quality

3. We are inclusive and listen to all opinions and perspectives

4. We collaborate with others to deliver our mission

5. We care about the wellbeing of everyone connected with us

Our beliefs

  • An effective mental health system should be based on knowledge and science that includes the expertise of people affected by mental health problems. We call this expertise from experience.
  • All mental health research across the entire bio-psycho-social spectrum can benefit from having expertise from experience in the research team.
  • Involving people with mental health problems and their families in research can:
    • ensure that research addresses relevant questions, those that have the greatest impact on people’s lives
    • help researchers engage positively and ethically with participants
    • challenge researchers’ assumptions in their study design and data interpretation
    • make study findings accessible and engaging for a wider variety of audiences.
  • In other words, combining high quality research expertise with insight developed through first-hand experience increases the chance that the research will be relevant, acceptable and impactful. This can be done in multiple ways, which collectively we refer to as using collaborative methods.
  • Despite the fact that mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people in the UK, investment in mental health research remains shockingly low.  There is an urgent need for greater investment in high quality mental health research. Ensuring that expertise from experience is included increases the chance that this money will be well spent.
  • Mental health research must mean more than the search for a cure or new medications. Research explores, reviews, examines and assesses information to improve our understanding of prevention, management and treatment. It can provide the evidence desperately needed to improve the lives of people affected by mental health problems and the efficiency of services designed to support them.
  • Alongside universities and other organisations, the voluntary sector has a role in mental health research and can make a difference.

Partnership working

We will work in partnership with any organisation that has similar goals to our own. We will carefully review any potential partnership to assess conflicts of interest and mission compatibility. Our main expertise is in mental health services research with an emphasis on the social; most of our staff have psychology or social science backgrounds. We work collaboratively with experts in other research areas and believe it is very important that scientists from all disciplines work collaboratively to progress our understanding of mental health problems and prevention strategies.     

A word about language

A collaborative approach must start with a shared, constructive language.  Mental health has historically been associated with many degrading and devaluing labels.  However, there is little consensus about what terms should be used and, of course, context is key.

When talking about people with a mental health diagnosis or undiagnosed mental ill-health, we use terms like ‘people with lived experience’, ‘people with mental health problems’ and ‘people affected by mental illness’ to emphasise that the individual comes first, and the diagnosis comes second.  We rarely talk about ‘patients’ – a term which is historically disempowering.

When research focuses on mental health service use, terms like ‘service users’, ‘clients’, ‘survivors’, and ‘consumers of mental health care’ are used.

We know that people have their own preferences when it comes to these terms.  Our position is that everyone affected by mental health problems has an important voice in finding solutions to improve our mental wellbeing – and that we should all work to make sure that language is not inaccurate, disrespectful or disempowering.

In 2016, we published a guide to the language we use to describe our ways of working and methods. Our language and the way we describe our work has evolved since then and we are currently creating some updated resources to reflect this.


The McPin Foundation stands in solidarity with those who experience racism, systemic discrimination, police brutality and violence more broadly. We are committed to acknowledging and tackling our complicity in systemic and institutional racism. In 2020 we re-assessed the work we were doing to tackle oppression and racism both within our organisation and the mental health research sector more broadly. The Black Lives Matter movement provided additional impetus for organisations like McPin to think again and more deeply about inequalities and racism. Entering 2022, what changes have we made?

We are making progress but this will always be an ongoing process. We have set up a peer support space for people of colour who work at McPin (called Auntie’s Kitchen). We give staff time within their working hours for anti-racism self-education or to attend courses and events.  We appointed new Trustees to support us to develop as an anti-racist organisation and commissioned training on inclusion for the board. We commissioned a deep listening exercise across the organisation and shared the findings with staff; we are using these to refresh our values and create a new organisational strategy in 2022. We worked with partners to deliver a webinar series “How to become an anti-racist mental health researcher” and we are planning on using this content to create a resource for researchers.

At the end of 2021, we were interviewed for From Pledge to Action by the Synergi Collaborative Centre which outlines some of the anti-racism work we have done. There is much more still to do to create a more inclusive and equitable organisation – in all aspects – communications, recruitment, leadership, organisational policies, project work and the support we offer to our team. In 2022 we are committed to completing equality impact reviews with project teams – often including university based partners – at the beginning and end of a study. We are also setting up more structures at McPin to move forward our anti-racism work including a Diversity Equity and Inclusion forum involving staff and Trustees. We must continually hold ourselves to account, intensifying our work to become an anti-racist and anti-oppression organisation. Part of this accountability is through our board. It is also through staff feedback and working with our wider networks. We also listen and learn from others in the charity sector and activists who are leading change. To find out more about our approach to this work, please get in touch directly. (Vanessa Pinfold, January 2022)