News, opinion and expertise Mental Health Our mental health strategy response Developing Healthy Communities has filed two responses to the Department of Health’s ten-year Mental Health Strategy. The strategy’s vision and principles are a great match for our own and we have called for the Department to use the expertise of the community and voluntary sector, in our response from the Clear Project. Our response on behalf of the Families Voices Forum offers a more challenging view, shaped by the perspectives of those bereaved by suicide. In both of our responses we welcome Action 11 – to “fully integrate community and voluntary organisations in mental health service delivery” – and believe that, with the appropriate resources, the sector can make a big contribution to recognizing, assessing and initiating support. Both responses also highlight the role that families and carers can play in designing and improving services and call for recognition for the vital part they play in supporting mental health. Our Clear Project offers training, good governance support and short-term funding to organisations in the community and voluntary sector working to prevent suicide, self-harm, drug and alcohol misuse. Clear Project Manager Brenda Morris says: “We have raised the need for long-term resourcing of the community and voluntary sector who can help provide quality services and pathways of support. We also welcome the involvement of interim Mental Health Champion Professor Siobhan O’Neill.” "The community and voluntary sector can provide quality services and pathways of support"– Brenda Morris The Families Voices Forum is a volunteer group of individuals and families bereaved by suicide. Our second consultation response, on behalf of the Forum, supports the cross-departmental work highlighted in the strategy but also reflects some of the frustration of families who have long campaigned for community resources and timely postvention approaches. “Some points in the strategy were raised with the then-Health Secretary as long as 15 years ago,” explains Bereaved by Suicide Project Co-ordinator Lisa Archibald. “Families want to see change happen, and the Forum would like to see a strategy with clear actions and outcomes that can be measured and evaluated with clear connections and integration with Protect Life 2 and other strategies supporting mental health.” The draft mental health strategy was released in December 2020 and features 29 proposed actions designed “to support and promote good mental health, provide early intervention to prevent serious mental illness, and to provide the right response when a person needs specialist help and support.” Consultation on the document closed on 26 March 2021.