A network for anyone with an interest in
adult education and mental health

Text Size: A+ Reset A-

 

About Us

We're a website

There's lots useful information about mental health and learning out there, but no other site brings it all under one roof. This site is designed to be your 'go-to' place for information on adult education and mental health for all of the FE sector. It's here to make your life easier. Think of MHFE as one big library for mental health and learning open to anyone who is interested in learning more and improving access to and success in adult education for people with mental health difficulties. 

We regularly add new content and resources. We keep on top on the latest developments in relevant government policy, research, best practice, and approaches to empowerment - and we turn them into library resources and useful news items and tweets. Save yourself hours of searching by bookmarking this site. Simple! 

We're a network

The NIACE/LSC/NSIP mental health partnership programme (2,000-2010) supported nine regional networks with a total of 3,000 members. When it ceased in March 2010, we created the MHFE website as a legacy for the programme's resources and an e-network as a successor to the face to face networks.

We are quietly growing a friendly e-community of practice that offers you opportunities to network, discuss and share experiences, resources, good practice and lessons learned with other practitioners to deepen your knowledge and support quality improvement in your provision. As at December 2015, we have 1,000 members.

We have occasional free webinars and online training sessions, which you are welcome to join. Check them out and share details with others via the calendar in the left sidebar on the homepage.

We're open to anyone 

Membership of our virtual network is open to anyone who has an interest in mental health and adult education and is free.  The network will be of particular interest to:

  1. People who are leading mental health and wellbeing in any type of FE sector organisation
  2. Managers and staff working in the FE sector
  3. Adult learners/students
  4. Carers and friends of people with mental health difficulties
  5. Staff working in related sectors, like community development, employment, health, and housing

 We're

  1. Raising awareness of how mental health difficulties can impact learning and of the many strategies available to help learners with mental health difficulties
  2. Unashamedly aspirational for people with mental health difficulties
  3. Unapologetic in putting equality, diversity, and human rights in mental health at the forefront of what we do
  4. Improving adult education opportunities for people with lived experience of mental health difficulties, in all their diversities
  5. Advocating for the social inclusion of adults with mental health difficulties in all areas of civic life, including access to and success in lifelong learning 
  6. Building networks across the FE and other sectors
  7. Encouraging peer learning and local partnership working to improve outcomes 
  8. Adding value to the original SFA investment made in this project by making it sustainable by:
  • keeping it simple
  • being inclusive of the whole FE sector 
  • co-producing without you knowing - its integral to everything we do
  • crowd sourcing and crowd curating content
  • hosting mental health projects, which cover our technical costs and/or through appropriate and relevant sector advertising or sponsorship
  • providing a space for individuals involved in  writing their academic dissertation or in research to share what they are doing, get feedback and disseminate the results
  • Improving our professional practice by contacting each other and commenting on each other's work 
  • Inviting you to contribute, share your news stories, blogs, multimedia resources, thought pieces, good practice examples and innovative ideas for how we can improve access to and success in learning for people who have mental health difficulties.
  • You're joining, logging in, and creating

    Register to get email digests of forum posts, news, resources, and events. Log in to read, reply to or start a forum post; comment on content and resources and start creating content. Which kinds of content you can create depends on your level of involvement. If you’d like to join the crowd that curates site content and contribute to our community of practice you only have to say it once. Getting involved makes for an excellent example of applied CPD on your CV. If you’d like to blog or share research or an aspect of your practice via an online training session get in touch and we will make it happen.

    Which kinds of content you can create on the website depends on your level of involvement. If you’d like to join the crowd that curates site content and contribute to our community of practice you only have to say it once. Getting involved makes for an excellent example of applied CPD on your CV. If you’d like to blog or share research or an aspect of your practice via an online training session get in touch and we will make it happen.

    And so to social media

    Prefer to contribute via social media? Find us on:

    • Twitter @MHFENetwork or #MHFE or #CLMH_pilot (for the DfE Community Learning | Mental Health pilot). 
    • YouTube - MHFEwhatsnew
    • Pinterest
    • Facebook - we know we are not yet brave enough when it comes to making Facebook work for us. Maybe you are the new member to make it happen?
    • Eventbrite - check out forthcoming events

    Contact us

    If you are not sure where to start and would like a virtual tour use the 'contact' link to send us a message or email MHFEwhatsnew@gmail.com  

    What will success look like?

    Success for this project is defined by and dependent upon the active participation of people who are interested in:

    1. Improving access to and success in all types of FE learning for people with lived experience of  mental health difficulties
    2. Improving the quality of learning and skills provision for people with mental health difficulties
    3. Promoting the mental health and wellbeing of all learners in all types of FE learning
    4. Promoting the mental health and wellbeing of the FE sector workforce 

     What else?

    MHFE hosts an archived copy of the former Healthy FE website and resources at http://www.healthyfe.org.uk.

    The Learning and Work Institute hosts MHFE's sibling equalities site, which is funded by DfE, at: http://www.equalitiestoolkit.com

    In more detail

    Why create the MHFE e-network?

    There were no arrangements in place for maintaining this area of work when the former Learning and Skills Council's National Mental Health Strategy (The Way Forward, 2009) and the LSC/NIACE/NSIP Mental Health Partnership Programme ceased, in March 2010. Demand for and much of the apparatus and membership of the partnership's regional mental health networks remained in place.

    The Skills Funding Agency and NIACE recognised that wider government policy imperatives about social justice, equalities and welfare to work to improve health, social and economic outcomes for people with mental health difficulties as well as:

    1. The current economic and employment situation
    2. Proposed government policy changes in the NHS, employment programmes, welfare benefits and post-16 education
    3. The Equalities Act (2010) coming into force

    In many respects, education and training organisations needed more not fewer opportunities at this time, to access information about policy developments, evidence of what works in practice, including continued opportunities to network and learn from each other and with local partners across different sectors.

    The result, in 2011, was the creation of the MHFE virtual network, as a partnership between the Skills Funding Agency and NIACE. It demonstrated a continuing commitment by the FE sector to social inclusion for people with experience of mental health difficulties. It was designed to build on the legacy of the former NIACE/LSC/ISCRI partnership programme and contribute to the new cross-government mental health strategy, No health without mental health (DH, 2011).

    What's changed in 7 years?

    Funding for MHFE ceased in March 2013. NHS mental health services have become more and more straitened, and people with mental health difficulties are disproportionately affected by welfare reforms and austerity measures. Indeed, the impact of welfare reform on people with mental health difficulties has for several years been the priority focus for the media and user-led and third sector campaigners.

    Crises in NHS mental health services and failing services for young people with mental health problems make headlines on an almost daily basis in the UK. Speaking to the BBC in August 2014, the then care and support minister, Norman Lamb, said:

    "Mental health generally has alwasy been disadvantaged, and it continues to be so..."

    Mental health services for young people in England are "stuck in the dark ages" and "not fit for purpose"

    Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-28851443  accessed 19 August 2014

    Instead, of the virtuous circle of opportunities to fulfil their potential that people with mental health difficulties need we seem to have created an increasingly vicious policy circle for people with mental health problems in health, social care and welfare reform. 

    But what of education? What of adult education? We continue to receive regular requests for information and help from FE providers. Many of the once exemplary legacy-resources our sector produced are now out of date (because for example, of localism, welfare reform and changes in the NHS and adult learning and skills policy and provision). At the adult education policy level, mental health was becoming all but invisible, except as a thorn in the side of policies that might work for others but too often fail people with mental health difficulties. 

    As a result, in the 2013/14 academic year, MHFE began to use social media (Twitter) much more as a means to disseminate current information, encourage discussion and raise concerns. We did so partly for the immediacy Twitter offers and because it is free to use and enabled us to continue at very low to nil cost. 

    The website is hosted and kept alive through the contributions of the e-network. We hope that sometime very soon national health, education and employment policy-makers will realise that awareness-raising campaigns, while important, are not on their own enough. The inclusion of young people and adults with mental health problems in adult learning and skills is at heart a matter of equality and fairness that needs to be actively supported by both policy and practice.

    The image that became our logo

    Image showing the MHFE conceptual framework as an 'onionskin' diagram, with learners at the centre through to the outer layer which is policy   In 2011, we organised content on the website around our conceptual framework, which we illustrated with a large clickable diagram on the homepage. It reflects the different levels where joined-up action is required to support positive outcomes in learning for people with a mental health condition and above all it is designed to show their inter-relatedness. Each section explored a key determinant of success in learning for people with mental health difficulties. None exists in isolation. When we focus on one element, we must also consider how it fits with the others and what action is needed in one or more of these as well or instead.

    We consciously drew on the 'onion skin' diagram used in public health to show determinants or layers of influence on people's health and on the World Health Organisation Ottowa Charter for Health Promotion (1986) which described different levels of action required to achieve Health for All by the year 2000 and beyond.

    In 2016, we gave the website a technical upgrade and a mini cosmetic makeover to reflect our shared learning about how to make it easier to use.