Councils and NHS given guide to promoting mental well-being

Councils and the NHS have been urged to improve the psychological well-being of their communities through a government public mental health framework launched today, including evidence of what works.

The framework, Confident Communities, Brighter Futureslays out a series of interventions to tackle the social causes of mental ill-health, such as unemployment and inequality, promote resilience in individuals and enhance community cohesion to reduce stigma and isolation.

It takes forward the ambition in the government’s 10-year strategy for mental health, New Horizons, to improve the mental health and well-being of the population, as well as the quality of services. Mental health leaders hailed the agenda as potentially heralding a “revolution in public mental health”.

The report emphasises the importance of intervening early, given estimates that half of all mental health problems, excluding dementia, start by the age of 14, but also of promoting mental well-being over the course of people’s lives.

It highlights universal and targeted interventions in areas including education, leisure and workplace health, as well as psychological therapies, and includes advice for commissioners on implementing the agenda.

The report is also designed to help reduce the economic costs of mental illness. About 11% of the NHS annual budget is spent on mental health services with recent estimates putting the wider economic costs at around £110bn UK-wide.

Care services minister Phil Hope said: “If we act early on in people’s lives we can influence their life course and reduce the inequalities they face. It can help people realise their potential, cope with adversity, hold down a job and contribute to building stronger communities. It is everyone’s business – local authorities, the NHS, communities and individuals all have a role to play in preventing poor mental health.”

The Future Vision Coalition, a group of 11 national mental health charities and representative organisations, said the framework could play a valuable role in setting out the evidence for different approaches to mental health improvement.

Speaking at its launch, coalition co-chair Dr Andrew McCulloch said: “This could be the beginning of another revolution in public mental health or it could all fade into the background and will do without that wider commitment. The challenge now is to develop a comprehensive public mental health strategy and to embed this within public health, where it belongs.”

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