Natalie Skinner, Kaleidoscope

New Zealand is home to beautiful mountains, an impressive prime minister and can also claim to be the birth place of Equally Well: a group of people and organisations who have come together to reduce physical health disparities between people who experience mental health and addiction conditions, and people who don’t. Last week Centre for Mental Health, Rethink Mental Illness and Kaleidoscope launched Equally Well UK, bringing together over 50 organisations to sign the Equally Well UK Charter and explore the first year of its development.

We heard from a range of excellent speakers and a whole host of organisations were represented. We’ve shared our top five things learned from the day below for those of you who couldn’t make it. This is not an exhaustive list, and if you attended and would like to share your lessons learned (or disagree vehemently with ours) please do get in touch.

So, what did we learn?

  1. There’s work to be done. “My GP told me I could be fat and stable or skinny and crazy” – not something you imagine doctors were taught in medical school, right? But this is the reality we heard about from Equally Well Lived Experience Advisory Group members, Hannah Moore and Nikita Egan. In conversation with Dr Zoe Williams, Hannah and Nikita provided a fantastic insight into why focusing on the physical health of people with a mental illness is so important – sharing both what has worked well and where there are areas for improvement.


  1. Collaboration is key. Not many would disagree with this statement but what makes for an effective collaboration is still up for grabs. Attendees at the launch event explored this idea, and agreed key to maintaining momentum is identifying a shared purpose. While a new collaboration can seem exciting at the time, fast forward six months and interest could wane – a clear, emotive shared purpose is key to prevent this happening.


  1. Get your ruler out. It’s all good and well forming a collaboration to effect change. However, if there is no evidence, did it even happen? The “know your data” breakout session led by Simran Sandhu and Cam Lugton from Public Health England’s Mental Health Intelligence Network highlighted the importance of measurement tools at the local level. Without the right metrics we’ll be rummaging in the dark and it would be easy for Equally Well UK members to become disillusioned. So thinking time is needed. What do we need to measure? Where are there gaps in data? Big questions which can help launch us into a new phase of collaboration.


  1. Who’s the boss of Equally Well UK? The short answer is: no one. Helen Lockett of Equally Well New Zealand described the importance of “distributed leadership” to their model. This means that any member of the Equally Well collaborative is empowered to take decisions to improve the effectiveness of the network without asking for permission or gaining consensus.


  1. Sharing the vision. Everyone at the launch event committed to the Equally Well UK charter, but one of the challenges ahead is bringing others on board. We need to have a resonant and repeatable key message, and make Equally Well UK the new kid on the block who everyone wants to be friends with. Through creating this desire to be part of Equally Well UK, we can gain more insight, resources and knowledge to keep pushing forward. FOMO at its finest.

We’re using learning from the launch event to develop the plan for the first two years of the Equally Well UK collaborative which we’ll share during a webinar on 18th October, 2-3pm. This will be an interactive webinar, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and feedback on the plan. Registration can be found here.

You can also view the write up by Anna at Kalidasope on the 13 September event here.