As we discussed in Chapter 2, self-organisation among people who use mental health services or who have been designated as ‘mad’ or ‘mentally ill’ is not an entirely new phenomenon. Nevertheless, the development of both autonomous action on the part of mental health service users, and action from within service systems to in some way ‘involve’ service users has gathered pace since the 1980s. These two different movements: one based in experiences of oppression, of being unheard and of having civil rights violated, the other deriving from consumerist notions of ‘listening to the customer’ are paralleled in the context of other areas of public policy and service delivery in the UK and elsewhere (see for example Gyford, 1991; McLean, 1995; Trainor et al., 1997; Barnes et al., 1998, 1999a and b). As the mental health user movement has developed in the context of, first, neo-liberal notions of the benefits of welfare markets, and with the advent of a ‘New Labour’ government in the UK in 1997, an emerging discourse of ‘partnership’ between the makers and subjects of public policy, different models of organising and different priorities for action have emerged within the movement.
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