The contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health crisis care in England: a mixed methods study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • James Rees
  • Rebecca Ince
  • Doreen Joseph
  • Michael Ashman
  • Barbara Norden
  • Ceri Dare
  • Suzanne Bourke

External organisations

  • Open University


Background: Weaknesses in the provision of mental health crisis support are evident and improvements that include voluntary sector (VS) provision are promoted. There is a lack of evidence regarding the contribution of the VS and how this might be used to best effect in mental health crisis care.

Aim: To investigate the contribution of Voluntary Sector Organisations (VSOs) to mental health crisis care in England.

Design: Multi-method sequential design with a comparative case study.

Setting: England, with four case studies in the North and East of England, the Midlands, and London.

Method: Method included: a scoping literature review; a national survey of 1612 VSOs; interviews with 27 national stakeholders; detailed mapping of the VSO provision in two regions (North and South of England) to develop a taxonomy of VSOs and to select four case studies. The case studies examined VSO crisis care provision as a system through: interviews with local stakeholders (n =73) and 8 focus groups with service users and carers; and, at an individual level, narrative interviews with service users (n= 47) and carers (n= 12) to understand their crisis experience and service journey.

Patient and public involvement (PPI): There was extensive PPI in the study, including service users as co-researchers, to ensure validity. This impacted on the conduct of the study and the interpretation of the findings. The quality and impact of involvement was evaluated and commended.

Findings: The mental health crisis experience constitutes a biographical disruption. VSOs can make an important contribution, distinguished by a socially oriented and relational approach.

Five types of relevant VSOs were identified: (1) crisis-specific; (2) general mental health; (3) population focused; (4) life event focused; and (5) general social and community VSOs. These VSOs provide a range of support and have specific expertise.


Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Services and Delivery Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Nov 2019
EventCrisis, what crisis?: ESRC Festival of Science - University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Nov 20187 Nov 2018


  • Mental Health Crisis, Mental Illness, voluntary sector, Third sector, Mental Health Services, Service User Involvement, Patient and Public Involvement, PPI impact, carers

ASJC Scopus subject areas