In October 2013, Belfast Mental Health Rights Group was awarded the Stephen Pittam Social Justice Award in recognition of their innovative and inspiring work. The award recognised the work of the group in mobilising others around mental health issues, their achievements in securing policy change with the ‘Card before You Leave Scheme’ and their use of PPR’s Human Rights Based Approach to ensure the government lives up to their commitment to the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
The group intended to use the award to help other groups and individuals to learn more about how they too can use rights to help make change happen. This was achieved through a residential event ‘What We Know About Change’ in January 2015. The residential gave groups and individuals involved in the Mental Health Rights Campaign the opportunity of coming together to share, and learn from, their experiences in campaigning for change. Groups were able to discuss and reflect on the lessons learned from past campaigns, such as the Card Before You Leave Campaign. They also reflected on how this learning had influenced their most recent campaign to include information on mental health in the government information campaign ‘Choose Well’. This was the first campaign in which several groups from across Northern Ireland worked together as part of the Mental Health Rights Campaign network.

Karen from S.T.E.P.S group, based in Draperstown said “I found the residential really beneficial because you never take time to actually realise the work that you do, you’re so busy working on the next thing – this weekend gave me time to see the impact those campaigns are actually having on the ground. It’s only when you’re sitting working through that you realise the progress that has been made and you realise that one campaign can lead to a big impact in other areas.”

The Mental Health Rights Campaign groups will shortly be carrying out surveys and focus groups to monitor whether things have improved on the ground since they launched their research report ‘Time to Listen; Time to Act. Holding Mental Health Services to account’ in March 2014. The surveys and focus groups will look at the experiences of people affected by mental health issues, and their carers, when accessing help for their mental health through their GP or through A&E. If you or your group would like to help by filling in a survey or taking part in a focus group, please do get in touch with us. You can contact us on 028 9031 3315 or at