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Insights about Charity

From fund to Foundation – building a rapid response mechanism in the pandemic

Neighbourly is based on the belief that community resilience builds from strong connections between government, businesses, not-for-profit organisations and individuals. Over the last six years we have proved time and again how big businesses can make a critical difference to individual lives by sharing resources and skills through hyper-local causes. Often ignored, these small causes ... more

10 November 2020
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Make progress by being progressive

We are, if you believe everything you read on social media, in the middle of a culture war with charities increasingly in the firing line. Just this week, The Telegraph ran the latest in a series of stories on the apparent furore around the National Trust and its decision to highlight the links between its ... more

10 November 2020
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How to make corporate and charity partnerships work to create maximum impact

There is no doubt that for many charities it is a difficult time. Fundraising, while never easy, has become even tougher with many of the staple formats unavailable and previous donors unable to give. With everything in flux, it is hard to know what the future will look like, but it is extremely likely that ... more

Now’s the time for visibility

I’ve done a fair amount of training and consultancy around communicating in a crisis over the years, complacently believing that for many of the participants, it would remain a store of unneeded knowledge and approaches. Well, as far as crises go, it’s Christmas and for many organisations, pretty much everything they are putting out currently, ... more

20 May 2020
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There’s no ‘I’ in purpose

As I sit at my bespoke home-working space – or “kitchen table”, as it’s more commonly known – I’m chasing a client for late payment of an invoice, one that predates the current troubles we are all facing. This will be an all too familiar feeling to many working for an agency, particularly if you’re ... more

16 April 2020
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Communicating with kindness

COVID-19 – such an anodyne, anonymous collection of letters but one that has thrown the world off its axis and fundamentally changed millions of lives at a bewildering speed. It has also spawned an avalanche of communication from pretty much every organisation under the sun. If you are not currently self-isolating from this deluge you ... more

30 March 2020
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Tackling isolation through digital innovation

Last week brought to a close, a 10 month project which we have been working closely with our client Nesta Challenges and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on, to launch the Tech to Connect Challenge – an England-wide competition to scale tech-based solutions to reduce social isolation. Tech can be alienating or ... more

Changing hearts and minds

When was the last time you changed your mind on an important issue? For many people, the answer is likely to be ‘a long time ago’. There’s no doubt we’re living in divided times. So, it’s important to understand why people feel the way they do, how to connect across divides, and ways to help ... more

11 March 2020
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Where’s the action on International Women’s Day?

It’s International Women’s Day. Which means a lot of things are all happening at once. We’re celebrating the truly amazing achievements of women around the world. We’re also calling for equality of opportunity and recognition. Richard Herring is no doubt spending the day on Twitter reminding disgruntled users that, yes, there is an International Men’s ... more

What a difference a year makes

My 2019 calendar social impact story reflects on a year when we finally started to wake up to the threat of the climate emergency… January   We kicked off the year in our fabulous new offices. A quiet but important policy came into effect with the revised Corporate Governance Code strengthening director responsibilities for listed companies ... more

Three Weddings and a Dress

It started with someone borrowing trousers for fancy dress, then something for a wedding, a graduation and so on. We now swap Winter coats for whole seasons and lend each other entire holiday wardrobes. At Forster, our ever-increasing understanding of the environmental and human cost of fast fashion meant that many of us no longer ... more

Ideas plus people – the equation for better health

Big problems need radical ideas and action and they don’t come much bigger than improving health. In 2019, Forster has been helping clients promote radical ideas and inspire action off the back of them. The partnership we helped create between the Daily Mail and Helpforce inspired 33,000 people to volunteer with the NHS in 2019. ... more

17 December 2019
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Small and many is powerful

The cheerful gentleman on the right in this photo is Robin. He is a resident at Etheldred House, a care home in Histon, Cambridgeshire, where I live. Robin suffered a brain injury a few years back and now needs care support. He is unusual in that he is resident in the same care home as ... more

17 December 2019
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Reach out and connect

Back in 2013, the health secretary described loneliness among older people as “our national shame”. Fast forward to 2019 and more than nine million people in the UK say they “often or always” feel lonely. The loneliness epidemic isn’t new, and we are doing more to tackle it at a systemic level, but it often ... more

17 December 2019
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When funders get active

Big problems abound and urgent action is required to tackle them. Perhaps it has always been that way, but something has changed and there is an exciting shift in how many social funders are ramping up their approach to positive change. It is marked by a decisive move towards being more active and taking a ... more

21 November 2019
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Achieving environmental ambition is everyone’s business

Bold ambitions on achieving net zero, removing single use plastics, running fast food toy take-back schemes and transforming supply chains, fill our daily news feeds. This is a good thing. It shows how environmental issues and the climate emergency have massively catapulted into our collective consciousness. But ambition and easy-to-get-away tactical comms initiatives are just ... more

21 November 2019
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Listen to be heard

Membership organisations are under intense pressure.  They need to retain their current members, build their membership base and generate income in order to optimise the services they offer. With resources limited on both sides – as members rigorously evaluate how they prioritise spend and organisations strive for efficiency – we are seeing different reactions. Some ... more

27 August 2019
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Movements – the Holy Grail for social change or the voluntary sector’s magic unicorn?

I was recently asked to come and do a short talk about movements at a civil society event, partly because I’ve worked on a few recently for charities and businesses, and partly because Forster has a long history of developing and promoting movements for social change. The first thing I do before giving a talk ... more

29 July 2019
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Tackling isolation through innovation

We’re working on a great project with Nesta Challenges at the moment, relevant to all civil society organisations working to address social isolation. Tech can be alienating or divisive for those that are isolated, so we want to help civil society translate their knowledge into good ideas for new ways to connect people. The prize ... more

21 June 2019
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Finding your opportunity point

Following the publication of our blog on Edie, CAF and Forster Communications brought together sustainability leaders from a range of industries to discuss sustainability leadership and identify opportunities to inspire action and greater collaboration within and beyond their organisations. We were delighted to have David Croft, Global Director of Sustainability at RB, and Hil Berg, ... more

17 June 2019
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Destinations are great, but journeys are important too

Read the full report here There has been a sea-change in the business sector over the last generation, where the focus on how organisations can operate ethically and sustainably has moved from the margins to the mainstream. Those responsible for corporate responsibility or sustainability now sit at the top table in many boardrooms. The voluntary ... more

24 April 2019
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Improving access to free mental health training for SME’s

Our ambition is to help give people access to the products, information and services they need to support their health, and the confidence and ability they need to use it to live well. Which is why we are so proud to be involved in the development of a new e-learning tool for SME’s. Small and ... more

16 April 2019
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Will the new code crack it?

This week, the Wates Principles were published as new guidance for large private companies, reiterating the need for them to behave in a way that benefits society as well as the economy, building trust and confidence among all stakeholders. It is an important moment, recognising the impact of the private business sector, and sits alongside ... more

Time for charities to show their workings

Scandal – if it were a commodity that could be traded, some investors would have become seriously rich this year as we have been drowning in the stuff. It is hard to think of a sector that hasn’t been hit by scandal in 2018 and sadly that includes civil society. The Oxfam abuse scandal put ... more

12 December 2018
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Transforming NHS volunteering

We launched Helpforce to the public via an exclusive, in depth interview with David Brindle in the Guardian on 6 December 2017. On 1 December 2018, the Daily Mail filled eight pages to encourage people to pledge time to support the NHS, yielding an incredible response from people of all ages across the country – ... more

12 December 2018
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Are you preparing for change? 4 key planning considerations for charity leaders

It’s that time of year again.  Charity leaders will be in the middle of planning for 2019/20, reviewing the nuts and bolts of operations and making budget decisions. At a time of intense political and economic uncertainty, there is one thing we can all be sure of – each CEO will want their organisation to ... more

6 November 2018

Mental health – from awareness to action

Awareness and understanding of mental health has dramatically increased in the last 20 years, thanks in part to pioneering campaigns like MindOut for Mental Health that we helped to create. Yet, one in four people in the UK still experience mental health problems each year[1] and it cost 300,000 people their jobs[2]. Within the UK, ... more

9 October 2018
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We need safe spaces to challenge the status quo

Every year the UN celebrates International Youth Day, and this year the theme is Safe Spaces. A ‘safe space’ is not a tangible or physical location, more a descriptor of a culture in which people can share their experiences without judgement, in an environment where they can exist free from violence, harassment, or hate speech. ... more

Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals is everyone’s business but how do you convince everyone else of that?

This week Measuring Up, the first comprehensive assessment of the UK’s performance against the SDGs, was released. It makes for tough reading. The UK is performing well on only a quarter of all the goals, and the profound problems of poverty and malnutrition are on the rise. This matters for every business in the UK ... more

You are not alone

How do you solve really big problems? The answer never changes but always bares repeating – by working together. There is of course something very romantic about a lone visionary labouring away in a lab / garage / garden shed to conjure up game-changing inventions, innovations and insights, but the reality is far more likely ... more

Put away the paint tins

Employee volunteering seems to be growing up, if the number of organisations offering to help employers create schemes is anything to go by. While David Cameron’s 2015 announcement on introducing a mandatory 3 days volunteering leave has come to nothing, the culture of supporting employees to volunteer is well established – most large employers will ... more

8 May 2018
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Think Global, Act Local

PR agencies spend a lot of time talking about living their values, for themselves and their clients. It is an important thing to do in an industry that gets shaken by scandals like Bell Pottinger every few years, where companies have forgotten that this mantra needs to be practised and not just preached. It was ... more

Improving health

We have been named ‘Britain’s Healthiest Workplace’ for the past two years by Vitality Health and ‘Best for the World’ for in the staff, overall and long term categories by the B Corps movement, but we wanted to dig into more detail, to understand where we’re doing best and where we could do even better. ... more

25 January 2018
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Society and the environment – our impact

No matter how innovative and progressive we are on improving health through our clients and employees, we also do our best to reduce our environmental footprint and have a positive impact on our community. Here are some of the things we have done: Staff volunteering: all our staff volunteered for a day for FoodCycle, creating ... more

25 January 2018
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Living Well

Encourage people to live well and we can reduce the incidence of health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancers, and so ease the strain on our health systems and help people live healthier, happier lives. This is no better illustrated than with the case of diabetes – a largely preventable life-changing condition that ... more

25 January 2018
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Shining a light

Since Forster’s inception, we’ve been proud to shine a light on issues that are considered taboo or ignored by others. Back in 2003, we launched the first ever integrated mental health campaign – MindOut – at a time when mental health was still very much a taboo topic. Back then, we helped raised awareness, smashed ... more

25 January 2018
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Health – Looking ahead

Giving people access to the products, information and services they need to support their health, and the confidence and ability they need to use it to live well. That’s a big goal, so we have broken it down into a series of commitments and targets covering each of our spheres of impact ... more

25 January 2018
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Poverty …Time for a rebrand?

Are we too posh to talk about poverty? It would seem so, judging by the latest report from the venerable Joseph Rowntree Foundation. ... more

5 December 2017
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Restoring dignity and hope – Kenya’s fight against fistula

When you work in social change communications, you can sometimes feel a long way from the actual social change. Recently Laura Hedges, a senior consultant at Forster Communications, got the chance to experience first-hand the impact of the campaign she helped to develop and implement for Astellas Pharma Europe, a campaign that is tackling one ... more

8 November 2017
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Learning lessons in Lebanon

Accompanied by my friend and consulting associate, Dalia Farouki, the Middle Eastern leg of my book tour started with meeting the head of CSR at one of Lebanon’s best known banks and ended, via several other meetings, at the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business in the pristine grounds of the American University of Beirut (AUB). The first thing to ... more

8 November 2017
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If we ran the country (or at least the communications bit)

Leadership has always been important, but it is particularly so as we enter the uncharted waters of Brexit. Our current (unelected, remember) Prime Minister is a case in point – someone who needs to show the right kind of leadership while navigating a divided country through at least two years of uncertainty and disagreement. We ... more

22 March 2017
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The state isn’t the only game in town

Budgets generally leave many feeling disappointed, particularly those campaigning on a specific issue. When the media does its traditional winners and losers analysis of the impact of a budget, the loser column tends to be the longer one. For most organisations campaigning for change, their responses generally begin with a variation on “We’re disappointed that ... more

9 March 2017
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Making the target a reality

When it comes to encouraging urgent action on a specific issue, it helps to have a real and significant target or statistic. That is certainly the case when it comes to the need to increase the number of people aged 50 and over in employment. While there is a rise taking place (9.8 million were ... more

9 February 2017
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It’s all about the application

In the lead up to FutureFest last month, Nesta carried out a survey which revealed that more people would rather live now than in 20 years’ time. Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive at Nesta, reminded us that our future is a choice; we have an opportunity to change this fear into possibility. “The concept of the ... more

Identity crisis for charities

As umbrella terms go, “charity” is a pretty good one to be lumped in with, certainly better than political party or bank. Despite the recent and worrying decline in public trust and confidence in the charity sector, there remains a huge well of public goodwill. It isn’t just the public either – 69% of MPs ... more

15 September 2016
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22 years: Proof Positive

We’ve been thinking positively and working with our clients to make real positive change for the last 22 years. Here are just a few of the things we’re most proud of which show that if businesses, governments, charities and people work together, we can make good things happen…   In 2003 we created Seeing is ... more

Watch your language to reap the business benefits

An age-shift is underway in society. People are living longer but we haven’t yet fully woken up to the value of older adults. Just check out the language often used to talk to or about older people – demeaning and diminishing words and phrases that reinforce ignorance and institutional ageist attitudes. In terms of their ... more

13 July 2016
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Combatting ageism, fear and loathing in Brexit Britain

For many years ageist attitudes and behaviours have gone unchallenged in the UK. With Brexit deepening the generational divide and triggering an outpouring of ageist vitriol, the need to tackle age discrimination is now more urgent than ever before.  As we grapple with the ramifications of the EU Referendum result, one thing is abundantly clear: ... more

7 July 2016
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That was then, this is now

Here at Forster we have spent the last week or so mostly sighing – with resignation, exasperation, discombobulation, surprise and disappointment. However, you can only be struck dumb for so long, and we’ve pulled ourselves together specifically thinking about what all this means for the voluntary sector. Let’s start with a statement of the obvious ... more

4 July 2016

Our panel debate with Change.org

Panel debate hosted by Change.org and Forster Communications exploring why deeper and sustained relationships with customers, donors and supporters are more important than ever to achieve lasting social change. ... more

14 April 2016
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Seed the fertile ground between charities and businesses

The case for forging closer links between business and charities is more compelling than ever. There is a financial imperative for charities to find new sources of income, and business offers obvious attractions in that area. Charities are also constantly looking for new ways to deliver against their mission and with the ongoing retreat of ... more

16 March 2016
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Leading from the front, back, top, bottom, middle, outside and inside

Charities are currently under a harsh media glare for excessive salaries, dodgy fundraising practices and daring to bite the government hand that feeds them, amongst other things. Businesses that take a stance on social change issues are often cited for cosmetic CSR, hypocrisy and not sticking to the knitting of making money. From a communications ... more

16 March 2016

Bringing business to society

As the year comes to an end, you would be forgiven for believing the world has never been in worse shape. Social unrest, environmental devastation, economic uncertainty, multiple conflicts and the seemingly relentless rise of extremism – all have reared their heads repeatedly in 2015. But, you’d be wrong. The world is currently more peaceful, ... more

The charity sector needs to campaign for its reputation

Predictably the recent Times exposure have inspired much gnashing of teeth and cries of “why us?” – just as the previous scandals and crises have done so. It is a legitimate question to ask – it is not paranoid to think someone is out to get you when someone is really out to get you. ... more

22 December 2015
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Playing the long game: Corporate charity partnerships restricted by short term focus on financial value

Our study of the charity sector reveals the potential for corporate partnerships to work harder and achieve more for businesses and charities alike. To do this, they must take a longer term approach rather than focusing just on the potential financial return. While funds from corporates are vital, too much emphasis is put to the ... more

25 November 2015
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We’re in the business of action

Raising awareness is one thing, getting people to take action is another. We’ve spent 20 years successfully inspiring the latter and have brought all that knowhow together to create our new Activation practice. It will focus on helping clients create campaigns and movements that inspire people to challenge attitudes, support a cause, change the way ... more

There’s nothing shameful about the menopause, so why is it still considered taboo?

All women have a unique health issue that is largely ignored in the workplace: the menopause. It’s time we treated it with all the seriousness and care it deserves. And we can start by breaking the silence and ending the stigma. It was a few years back now that I remember telling a young colleague ... more

16 June 2015
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Permission key for employee volunteering

Volunteers Week is an important celebration. Over 20 million people chose to volunteer at least once a month; they provide critical support for charities, community groups and other not-for-profit organisations and in return, are rewarded by making a difference. It’s a big number, but it should be bigger. If you look at the corporate responsibility ... more

4 June 2015
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The challenge of engaging staff on mental health issues in the health sector

The need for NHS employees to be supported by health and wellbeing plans is well documented. NHS Employers estimates that 30 percent of NHS sick leave is caused by stress, costing up to £400 million a year in lost productivity, and NHS England’s Five Year Forward View has highlighted the need for Trusts to help ... more

11 May 2015
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Mental Health at Forster

We’ve all heard the statistics; one in four people experience mental illness symptoms in any given year. What’s more, a recent survey from PRCA suggests this figure rises to a third within our sector, costing the UK economy an estimated £70 bn per year. In the last 15 years we have worked on a number ... more

13 April 2015
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Why long-term campaigning works: spotlight on cycling

2015 will mark the 10th anniversary of the London 7/7 tube bombings, a terrible tragedy but which had the unexpected side effect of increasing the number of people cycling to work in London. Many will have reverted back to the tube having experienced riding a bike on the capital’s roads is perhaps not as expected. ... more

We’re talking about mental health, are you?

Last year, more than 15 million days of sickness absence across the UK were caused by everyday mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety or depression. And despite one in six employees (that’s your colleagues, friends and family) currently experiencing mental health issues, many businesses are not putting in place plans to ensure the mental ... more

29 April 2014
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Hard message? Get creative

As an agency that focuses on behavioural change campaigns we are often tasked with reaching audiences who are disengaged from what we are trying to say, whether this is because they are socially isolated, have ‘heard it all before’, or in many cases, more

17 April 2014
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We’ve come a long way

Mental health has never been more relevant. There’s been public outrage about the level of cuts to mental health services: The Guardian recently reported that the NHS currently allocates just 13% of its resources to treatment of mental health problems, despite these problems accounting for 23% of disease burden in England. Campaigns such as the ... more

19 February 2014
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When companies campaign

It is no longer enough for companies simply to provide a product or a service. Many consumers, employees even shareholders and senior business leaders are looking beyond the bottom line and considering the social purpose of what they do. more

26 September 2013
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We’re not allowed to discriminate… but we do

Last week Forster had a session on becoming a dementia friends. For those not familiar with the scheme this is an hour’s interactive briefing run by Alzheimer’s Society, designed to make people more aware of what it is like to have dementia and the problems those with the disease encounter on a daily basis. As ... more

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

In March this year, NVCO commissioned a survey of charity professionals asking them about the financial prospects for the sector and their charity specifically more

22 May 2013

For charities, commercial is good

‘The idea of commercialising charities is something that can trigger a collective gasp among sector stalwarts,’ says GEORGE AMES. ‘But money doesn’t have to be a dirty subject. Without funds to operate effectively, an organisation can achieve no good – and nobody gains from that.’ Although it is commonly accepted that, for a charity to effectively ... more

22 April 2013
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Silence on mental health – that’s the global crisis……

It’s not the prevalence of mental health that is the crisis – it’s the stigma and discrimination that’s the real issue.   The stigma which continues to shroud all forms mental illness is deeply unhelpful. It prevents people seeking the help that they need It prevents people talking, sharing and comparing experiences It makes it ... more

10 October 2012
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Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and it is interesting to see that mental wellbeing is the theme. The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging the public to do a good deed to feel good.  We have come a long way from the days of ‘mental health’ meaning ill health. And mental ill health being ... more

23 May 2012
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