The history of the mental health users movement in the UK remains sparsely documented, a function perhaps of its consciously informal nature and its relative recency. Writing in 1991 Rogers and Pilgrim (p. 130), also suggest that ‘developments in Britain are not as advanced as in other countries’. They considered that this might reflect both the lack of as strong a tradition of participatory democracy as in most other developed European states and the UK’s insularity towards those continental influences. It is the ambitious aim of this chapter to trace the evolution of the movement in the UK and to offer an analysis of those influences that have shaped it. This will involve brief examination of changes in the UK’s political and social structure and the influence of developments elsewhere, both in Europe and further afield. The chapter continues with a review of the current nature of the movement and reflects upon the similarities and differences between the objectives and nature of the diverse groups that constitute the movement — including between those that might be distinguished as users or survivors and those characterised as carers or relatives. It concludes with a brief examination of changes within the state that have extended opportunities for the service user movement to influence those services that most impact upon service users’ lives.
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