Should mental health services seek to cure mental ill-health? Kate Dalzell reflects on CORC’s regional seminars

We were really delighted by the quality of insight and debate at CORC’s regional seminars in Birmingham, Sheffield and London last month.  Many thanks to all who joined us and contributed in making these such stimulating events.

The sessions brought together a rich range of professionalisms and voices, including colleagues from mental health services (NHS and voluntary), the youth sector, public health, schools and commissioning, as well as local young champions sharing their lived experience. For me, this engagement brought home the breadth of people seeking to improve our support for children and young people’s mental wellbeing, and the opportunity and challenge we face in really understanding and optimising the role and impact of these different facets of care.

Lively debate was prompted by presentations that reviewed the latest research and findings from CORC data to consider how far mental health services should be considered as ‘curing’ anxiety and depression.  Discussions opened up ongoing debates about how we define a good outcome in child mental health, and how – if ‘cure’ is not a majority experience - we best understand, measure, and talk about the impact that services have.  Two points of discussion stood out for me. One was young people’s emphasis on the importance of sustaining hope in talking about how, and how far a given service might be expected to help.  The other was colleagues’ reflections about less discussed service outcomes – such as empowerment, or ability to cope - and the importance of a mental health system that can recognise and measure the value of these.

In the context of a developing acknowledgement that specialist mental health services cannot offer a ‘cure-all’, we also used the seminars to open up CORC’s recent thinking about how we strengthen our public mental health response.  Do have a look at Miranda Wolpert’s recent blog to develop your own thoughts around this, and watch out for future CORC exploration into how we measure mental wellbeing at a population level and use that insight to learn more about the wider determinants of mental ill-health.

Presentations and feedback are available on the CORC website. Some of the findings we shared are pre-publication and so we can’t disseminate in full at this point but please do keep an eye on the CORC Newsletter and website to hear details of these as they become available, as well as for news of future CORC events and other opportunities to be involved in our learning collaboration.