What is SANE (Charity)?


SANE is a UK mental health charity working to improve quality of life for people affected by mental illness.

Brief History

SANE was established in 1986 to improve the quality of life for people affected by mental illness, following the overwhelming public response to a series of articles published in The Times entitled “The Forgotten Illness”. Written by the charity’s founder and Chief Executive, Marjorie Wallace, the articles exposed the neglect of people suffering from mental illness and the poverty of services and information for individuals and families. From its initial focus on schizophrenia (the name started as an acronym for “Schizophrenia: A National Emergency”), SANE expanded and is now concerned with all mental illnesses. SANE’s vision has been to raise public awareness, instigate research, and bring more effective professional treatment and compassionate care to everyone affected by mental illness.

During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, SANE’s hotline received a 200% increase in calls.

Aims and Outcomes

SANE uses the Charities Evaluation Services framework to assess its work. They have three organisational aims:

  • Reducing the impact of mental illness.
  • Improving treatment and care by increasing knowledge about mental illness.
  • Influencing policy and public attitudes by increasing understanding of mental illness.

These aims are connected to a number of specific outcomes which are used to monitor and evaluate SANE’s work.


SANE works to:

  • Raise awareness and combat stigma about mental illness, educating and campaigning to improve mental health services.
  • Provide care and emotional support for people with mental health problems, their families and carers as well as information for other organisations and the public.
  • Initiate research into the causes and treatments of serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and depression and the psychological and social impact of mental illness.

Online Forum

One of the many features of SANE’s website is the Support Forum – a peer to peer community, moderated by SANE. The Support Forum provides a space where people affected by mental illness, family, friends and carers can offer and receive mutual support at any time of day or night 365 days a year. Users of the Support Forum share thoughts, feelings and experiences of the difficulties and challenges that can arise from living with mental illness. The forum has several different discussion rooms including:

  • Newbies.
  • Family, Friends and Carers.
  • Information Exchange.
  • Creative Corner.
  • Rant Room.

Marie talked about her experience of using the Support Forum: “I was scared to tell anyone how I was feeling, so I used the Support Forum at first. There I found a community of other sufferers and realised I wasn’t alone. I can’t express how pleased I was – I had felt so isolated up until that point.”

Emotional Support

SANE offers emotional support and information to anyone affected by mental health problems through helpline (SANEline) and text (Textcare) services and an online Support Forum where people share their feelings and experiences.

These services are led by SANE’s team of mental health professionals and delivered by a force of over 140 volunteers who undergo rigorous training and in many cases give hundreds of hours of their free time each year. SANE’s Caller Care programme provides call-back to give on-going support and help people alleviate a crisis phase or get through difficult circumstances.


SANE undertakes neuroscience research to understand the causes of serious mental illness. SANE opened the Prince of Wales International Centre (POWIC) for SANE Research in 2003 to focus this work and establish a home for multi-disciplinary research. SANE provides space within POWIC to the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, which provides Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy training, integrating brain research with meditation techniques, and Professor Daniel Freeman.

SANE’s psychosocial research team focuses on the social and psychological aspects of mental illness impacting service users, carers and mental health professionals.


SANE campaigns to influence mental health policy and improve services, as well as combating the stigma and ignorance, which all too often exacerbate the distress that people experience. Previous work includes; campaigning for reform of mental health law, campaigning for better access to psychological therapies and campaigning about the unacceptable standard of care on many psychiatric wards.

Black Dog Campaign

In 2011, to mark its 25th anniversary, SANE launched the Black Dog Campaign. The campaign aimed to increase awareness and understanding of depression and other mental illness, to introduce new emotional support services, and encourage more people to seek help.

The Black Dog has been used as a metaphor for depression from antiquity to the present day. To bring the campaign to life SANE designed Black Dog statues that were placed across London and other major UK cities to raise awareness, reduce stigma and misunderstanding of mental health problems and to encourage more people to seek help.

It was hoped that the physical presence of a Black Dog would help people define their experience of the “invisible” condition that characterises mental illness, as well as promoting more open discussion, understanding and acceptance. In order to deliver a positive message of support each of the black dogs had a “collar of hope” and all of them wore coats designed by celebrities, artists or members of the public.

Celebrity Support

SANE have a distinguished group of high-profile patrons. Over the years they have lent their time and energy to publicising services, backing campaigns and fundraising for continued growth and success of the charity.

Celebrity supporters include:

  • Ruby Wax.
  • Bradley Walsh.
  • Rory Bremner.
  • Ian Hislop.
  • James Arthur.
  • Joanna Lumley.
  • Michael Palin.
  • Trevor Phillips.
  • Adam Ant.

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