Rethink Mental Illness has established a Community Mental Health Unit to transform community mental health care. We believe this is not a task for the NHS alone, but for communities and those working in them to come together and collaborate far more closely.

Rethink Mental Illness has established a Community Mental Health Unit to transform community mental health care. We have brought together expertise around our charity in community engagement, coproduction, operations, alliance-building and policy and practice. This enables us to accelerate transformation in a place. Over the past 3 years we have built a toolkit to enable us to approach the very different challenges in different places.

Building communities that care:

Rethink Mental Illness has been supporting Open Mental Health in Somerset, working in partnership with local VCSE, NHS, and local authority partners to transform Somerset Community Mental Health services, proving the concept and embedding co-production, alliance development, and service delivery.

In response to the NHS England/Improvement Community Mental Health Framework, Rethink Mental Illness published ‘Building Communities that Care’ setting out what we see as the six pillars of community care: clinical, social connectedness, physical health, housing, finances and employment and volunteering. Based on our experience from Somerset, we produced our ‘Thinking Differently’ guide for STPs/ICSs, followed by our ‘Keep Thinking Differently’ guide, setting out the steps that place-based teams need to take to start transforming their community mental health.

We established the Community Mental Health Unit to be a laboratory for the best approaches to do this and to influence the best possible adoption of the Framework. We secured a £3m grant to work with NHS and VCSE partners to deliver four new alliances around England and we continue to look for new partners.

Building on the lessons learned in these areas and across the country, and with ringfenced transformation funding coming to an end, we have launched our new report, 'Building community into the Integrated Care System; A practical guide to developing robust community mental health', where we:

  • Summarise the significant challenges facing mental health care.
  • Provide a toolkit of practical, workable solutions to common barriers to transformation.
  • Explore the role that the VCSE sector can have in pursuing the four core aims and future goals of ICSs.

Our Community Mental Health Unit can: 

  • Work alongside you to undertake strategic and co-produced work to bring people and communities into decision making. You can read our model for coproduction and guidance here.
  • Support you to understand and evaluate your system or area's progress in prioritising community mental health care. You can read more about our three-month Community Mental Health Progress Evaluation Programme here.
  • Design co-produced outcomes measurement to make sure that changes and improvements are sustained and lead to long-term improvements for everyone using your services.
  • Demonstrate practically what we know works and work alongside you to find what will have the most impact in your area.
  • Support local VCSE alliance formation, development and continued partnership working.

Contact our team

To find out how our Community Mental Health Unit can help your organisation, please email us at