University of Cambridge Home Mental Health Support Group
    at Cambridge University
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The Mental Health Support Group at Cambridge University was formed to offer people who had recovered from mental illness a supportive, and informal, venue to share experiences, and to work for better treatment. It was voluntary and aimed at staff, or students, who had recovered from diagnosed mental illness. What follows are: some background; a brief history of the group; and conclusions drawn from that experience. Also below are a few selected links, and references.


The lifetime incidence of mental illness is around 1 out of 5 people (Rethink, MIND, SANE). In England around 600,000 adults are in contact with mental health services at any one time (Nat. Inst. Mental Health in Engl., 2005). And, about 1 out of 100 people have manic depression and a further 1 in 100 have schizophrenia or psychoses at some time in their lives. However, there are only around 15,000 adults in long-term care for mental health (NHS, Hansard). These figures suggest vast numbers become ill and interact with the health services. However most of the people who are affected go on to recover and disappear back in the community. Compared to numbers affected, the numbers in care are very small.


We advertised the group meetings widely within the University, and persisted with public meetings for a few years. A handful of sincerely interested people responded each time - and came to meetings or corresponded. People who joined had all had experience of the most severe illnesses. Hence it seems likely that people who came to meetings or contacted the group had adjusted to the idea of themselves having been ill, rather than not being able to admit that to themselves.

Despite the publicity, the group never really got to a self-sustaining size and there were too few members to whom one might delegate responsibilities. Thus, the group did not get far with other activities, apart from volunteering 'encouragement meetings' to patients near the end of their stay in Fulbourn Hospital (which was not taken up).


  • Recovery is possible - some who joined had responsible jobs, or had very high academic achievements, but all had been severely ill.
  • very large numbers of people are affected by mental illness, but very few wish to bring themselves to be associated with a 'mental health' group. Hence it appears that people with experience of mental illness are just as likely to be affected by stigma as the general public.
  • Therefore the most important challenge would seem to be to change attitudes. This might come about through: work with schools/ children; education; more role models; and other approaches.

Websites with Useful Information - UK

  • The Royal College of Psychiatrists has useful fact-sheets on many topics.
  • Anti-Discrimination Toolkit, from Mental Health Media, a group devoted to the public view of mental illness. - OpenUp -.
  • SANE, has comprehensive referenced material on all serious mental illnesses. They also run a help line (0845 767 8000 - local call charge).
  • Rethink. Their full title is "Rethink severe mental illness". Their local groups are mainly for carers and relatives of ill people. Offer information and a helpline.
  • Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health - a campainging organisation that aims to improve conditions for those with mental health problems. Has many interesting publications.
  • King's Fund Links. Comprehensive mental health links from the library service of the King's Fund - an independent charity.

Support Groups in Cambridge

  • Lifecraft, produced the useful "Lifecraft - Mental Health Handbook 2005". They also have a centre, run social groups and an advice line.
  • Cambs Mental Health Info - guide to local help and services.
  • CAM-Mind, involved with befriending, fundraising and support.
  • - MDF BiPolar may still be around - a Cambridge group for people with the disorder and family and friends.

Useful Books

  • Surviving Schizophrenia: A Manual for Families, Consumers, and Providers (5th edn, Quills/HarperCollins, April 2006) by E. Fuller Torrey.
  • A Mood Apart : The Thinker's Guide to Emotion and Its Disorders (Picador, 1999) by Peter C. Whybrow.
  • The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (Vintage, 2002, ISBN 0099277131) by Andrew Solomon.
  • Reducing The Stigma of Mental Illness (Cambridge University Press, 2005) by Norman Sartorius and Hugh Schulze.

Avoiding Relapse

You may be interested in the attached leaflet (79k pdf) on "Avoiding Relapse". This was written by the list manager on the basis of: a survey of mental health literature; a group discussion with patients and CPN's (community psychiatric nurses); and comments of experienced staff. It was reviewed by staff at the Birmingham Early Intervention Centre (who have written on relapse prevention);

Sites on Recovery


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See Again?:

Useful Books
Avoiding Relapse
Sites on Recovery