to Madness and Distress
User Perspectives and User Knowledges
This is a time of enormous change and contradiction in mental health policy, practice and thinking. It seems to be characterised by the energy of opposed developments. On the one hand, are those initiatives which seem to be breaking new ground and pointing to a different future. This book, for example, is itself one small sign of the search for new approaches to making sense of and responding to 'madness' and 'distress'. It embodies and reflects a renewal of interest in social approaches to 'mental health' (Duggan, 2002; SPN, 2002). It connects with the recent political enthusiasm for 'evidence'or 'knowledge'-based policy and practice. We do not yet know how far such government enthusiasm extends beyond rhetoric, but it is undeniably explicit and service providers, commissioners and analysts are under increasing pressure to sign up to it. Organisational changes stress the importance of connecting related policies including employment, benefits, disability, education and so on and developing a more holistic approach to 'mental health'. There is an almost unprecedented interest in service user perspectives. The buzz words are 'involvement', 'inclusion', 'empowerment' and 'partnership'. These terms were all highlighted in the government's key National Service Framework for Mental Health (Department of Health, 1999).