- by Marguerite Regan
- Policy Manager, Mental Health Foundation
One in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year, representing the largest single cause of disability in the UK. As it stands, the economic and social costs of poor mental health (estimated at £105 billion a year) are too great for our health and social care systems to handle.
We need to invest in upstream interventions in the places where people live, learn, work and play. It is imperative that a public health perspective is taken within mental health to change the current crisis and reactive service model.
The mind-body division has historically mean that public mental health has been a neglected field and perceived to be outside the remit of public health. The Faculty of Public Health chose to focus on the mental health agenda, making it the core theme of their annual conference this year and collaborating with the Mental Health Foundation to combine expertise and produce some key resource aimed at supporting the development of knowledge and skills in public mental health.
Better Mental Health For All report
The report examines what can be done individually and collectively to enhance the mental health of individuals, families and communities by using a public health approach and looks to support the development of knowledge and skills in public mental health. The report is an evidence based resource for people who want to create real change in local communities.
It outlines the critical role that public health professionals, commissioners and elected representatives play in leading the necessary reforms. The report gives clarity to the fact that we know how much can be done to promote mental health and wellbeing across all age groups, prevent mental health problems from occurring and to support people to recover their mental health.
Throughout the report, case studies showcase examples of innovative public mental health programmes and projects being run across the UK. These were selected from the thirty entries submitted to the Faculty of Public Health inaugural 2016 Public Mental Health Awards and celebrate the public health professionals who are pioneering role models for public mental health.
Three of these case studies were then chosen to have their work presented in short videos, which were launched at the conference. These three varied examples illustrate clear advocacy for public mental health by public health practitioners, exploring; A mens mental health/suicide prevention project in Torbay; a project addressing mental wellbeing as part of flood response in Somerset; and social prescribing in Lanarkshire.
The public health professionals involved in these, and several of the other case studies, were invited to share best practice at two sessions held during the conference. It should be noted that these particular sessions were hugely popular with delegates, illustrated by the room being well over capacity.
FPH’s focus on highlighting public mental health this year was largely driven by outgoing President, Professor John R Ashton CBE. He spoke at length about mental health during the conference and awarded the Faculty’s inaugural Public Mental Health award to Gerry Cadogan, Public Health Principal at Torbay Council, for the Torbay men’s mental health/suicide prevention project. Mental health ran through the whole conference, with the keynote given by Dr Stan Kutcher on increasing mental health literacy of young people.
Collaboration is central to the pursuit of good mental health across society. It is vital that both public health practitioners and mental health professionals become advocates for public mental health to prevent mental health problems and promote mental wellbeing.
This isn’t to say that full responsibility lies with them, and governmental-level action and support is also required. It is our hope that this partnership between the Mental Health Foundation and the Faculty of Public Health will encourage more leadership and advocates for public mental health across the UK.