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Who we are

SANE is a leading UK mental health charity improving quality of life for anyone affected by mental illness.                                        

It was founded in 1986 by its Chief Executive, Marjorie Wallace CBE, following her pioneering articles, The Forgotten Illness, in The Times.

These exposed the way in which society neglected individuals and families affected by mental illness, and the lack of information, treatments and strategies for prevention.

The charity aims to:

  • Raise awareness and understanding of all mental health conditions.
  • Combat the stigma surrounding mental illness and fight to improve frontline services for individuals and carers.
  • Provide support, information and guidance through its helpline SANEline, email and ongoing support services, Textcare and Online Forum.
  • Promote and host research into the causes of mental illness and the effectiveness of treatments and therapies at the Prince of Wales International Centre for SANE Research in Oxford.

SANE’s vision is to help create a world in which there is no shame or blame surrounding mental illness, which it believes needs to be recognised as one of the greatest challenges facing society and must be treated with the same seriousness as physical health conditions

Since SANE was founded the mental health landscape has changed dramatically. National programmes and strategies for service development have been established, and public awareness and anti-stigma campaigns have brought mental illness out of the shadows.

Yet we still find ourselves fighting on behalf of people for whom services are not available or do not meet need, and who often feel they have nowhere to turn in crisis.

Campaigning

To realise our vision, we seek to promote greater understanding and acceptance of mental illness, reflecting and promoting the concerns, needs and everyday experiences of patients and service users, families, carers and professionals.

The Chief Executive gives over 200 interviews a year in the mainstream media at national, regional and local level, and SANE issues comment on a wide range of national and international mental health issues for outlets such as BBC News Online, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Huffington Post. This activity is supported and enhanced by ever-growing use of social media. 

SANE’s campaigning highlights the acknowledged crisis in psychiatric care, calling for the restoration of beds in hospitals and units as well as:

  • A substantial increase in the workforce to make good the current acute shortage of consultants, psychiatric nurses, therapists and other skilled mental health staff.
  • More resources for community-based teams and action to prevent patients and their families having to travel hundreds of miles to receive in-patient treatment. 

Other issues on which the charity seeks to raise awareness include:

  • New research.
  • Medications, treatments and therapies.
  • The impact of the internet on mental health.
  • Rising levels of depression and anxiety, especially among girls and young women.
  • The alarming increase in self-harm and suicide, particularly among adolescents.

A major concern is the lack of psychiatric beds available locally for those in crisis, or who need longer-term care. We wish to see beds and units provided in sufficient numbers to prevent people being denied treatment or sent hundreds of miles from home for inpatient care. This would also help to relieve the pressure on overstretched community mental health teams.

There needs to be training and recruitment of mental health professionals in all disciplines – psychiatrists, nurses, therapists and counsellors – to make good the serious shortfalls and enable safe and therapeutic inpatient and community care and psychological therapies to be provided.

In order to achieve genuine parity between mental and physical health care, people presenting with a mental health problem should be treated with the same level of response as are those with a physical health problem.

Those who are suicidal or self-harming should be assessed and treated, and given appropriate follow-up care.

Providing help

SANE provides emotional support, guidance and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including carers, families and friends. 

SANEline remains the only out of hours national, specialist mental health helpline, available 365 days a year to people in crisis, those with enduring and relapsing conditions and those who care for them.

Our team of highly-trained volunteers provides listening, understanding, up-to-date information and support to callers in need and distress. Volunteer shifts are supervised at all times.

In the wake of Covid-19, SANEline was adapted from being a line run from the SANE office to a service whereby people who call are asked to leave their name and a contact number so that they can be rung back.

Through Textcare we provide personalised, targeted messages to people at times when they feel most lonely and vulnerable, such as on an anniversary or a bereavement, Christmas and other holidays, or when alone in the evenings or at weekends. 

We provide an email support service for anyone who prefers to write things down, or doesn’t have privacy to speak. You can email us at support@sane.org.uk, and will receive a personally written response. You are welcome to begin with email support and ask for a call from us at any time.

SANE’s Online Forum provides a platform for peer- to- peer support for the sharing of experiences, information and guidance.

Within the wider SANE Community, the charity also offers a space for members to share art, music, photography and poetry, as well as personal blogs.

A team of SANE’s experienced professionals and senior volunteers run this adapted service from their homes, and it is backed up by a dedicated email address through which people can also seek help.

Inspiring research

SANE believes that a deeper understanding of the causes of mental illness is vital in the search for more effective treatments and therapies, as well as combating stigma.

Funded by the Xylas shipping family, the late King of Saudi Arabia and the Sultan of Brunei, SANE built a flagship research centre, the only mental health charity to have done so.

Designed by award-winning architect Dr Demetri Porphyrios and situated in the grounds of Warneford Hospital, Oxford, The Prince of Wales International Centre for SANE Research (POWIC) was opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in February 2003.

SANE also undertakes psychosocial research, drawing on the experiences of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Studies have included a large survey of people who have self-harmed, and a four-year Big Lottery-funded exploration of the personal experiences of those who have attempted suicide and the people closest to them, with a view to helping anyone concerned – friends, colleagues, neighbours, teachers, as well as family members – to recognise and respond to indications that someone may be suicidal.

Enabling creativity

Camille Ormston - Mile to Go Before I Sleep

SANE believes in the power of artistic and other creative activity to help people with mental illness fulfil their potential and improve their quality of life.

We have run an Arts Awards scheme for many years, through which it has provided grants to individuals to undertake an activity or specialist training, such as oil painting or printmaking.

One recipient of a SANE Arts Grant, Anthony Cleyndert, was helped to become an acknowledged artist and exhibitor and designed a dramatic stained-glass window for POWIC. Other grant winners have achieved fulfilment in art, music and creative writing.

In 2019 the charity launched the SANE Creative Awards Scheme, which aims to improve the quality of life for people with mental health problems, their families and carers, by encouraging them to fulfil their creative potential.

It awards grants to individuals ranging from £75 to £300 to cover the cost of materials, specific projects, courses, or funds for relief cover for carers. In the three rounds of the scheme to date, applicants have submitted work of outstanding quality and awards will have been made to over 220 people.

SANE is working in partnership on the scheme with the Open College of the Arts, the distance learning arm of the University for the Creative Arts, which is providing advice, guidance and members of the awards assessment panel.

Black Dog Campaign

The Black Dog has been used from classical mythology through medieval folklore to modern times as a universal metaphor for depression. Sir Winston Churchill famously used it to describe his darker moods, as had Samuel Johnson and other writers before him.

The concept forms the basis of SANE’s Black Dog Campaign to highlight depression, which underscores most mental illness and casts its shadow over one in five people.

We chose the Black Dog to symbolise how powerful, dominating and unpredictable mental illness can be. It wants the campaign to give people a language in which to express their inner feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, and encourage them to seek help.

Imposing six-foot sculptures of Black Dogs wearing coats designed by artists, celebrities or others, and standing on a plinth featuring SANEline and other sources of help, have been placed in business foyers, public parks, schools, universities and shopping centres in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Several major companies and institutions have partnered with the Black Dog Campaign by financing or hosting a Black Dog.

Over the years, the campaign has proved extremely popular amongst students in both schools and universities and has developed into a wide programme of activities, including workshops on mental health and mental illness, stigma and ways to find support.

Partnership working

SANE works in partnership with professional and other organisations to seek to influence policy and practice and spread awareness beyond the mental health field.

We are a member of the Mental Health Alliance, a grouping of organisations concerned with the working of the Mental Health Act and other aspects of mental health legislation.

We have worked on parliamentary and service initiatives such as employment for people with severe and enduring mental illness.

SANE works with writers, performers and musicians to raise awareness of mental health and provide opportunities for self-development.

The charity has worked with Matthew Johnstone of the Black Dog Institute in Australia on its Black Dog Campaign, who designed an image especially for SANE, which has been used in connection not only with the Black Dog Campaign but the Textcare service.

SANE worked with Ruby Wax for two years on a series of mental health forums.

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