70 years old but what’s next for the Mental Health Foundation?
I am proud and excited that we are launching the Mental Health Foundation’s new strategy for 2020-2025, Making Prevention Happen.
The strategy is the product of collective work over the last year of open discussions with our trustees, staff, partners and our supporters. It has included team meetings, away days, flip chart doodling, board papers and our fair share of PowerPoint presentations. From the beginning, we were determined to make the process meaningful. We wanted a document that staff and stakeholders recognised as reflecting our combined analysis and views and I am proud of the process we have followed.
Like many working for social purpose organisations, we operate in a vital but complex and contested field. Mental health is a subject that arouses deep feelings and convictions. There are many views on the right language, the root causes and the priorities for action in mental health. This can lead to a fragmentation of purpose and action that dilutes an organisation’s effectiveness. However, we wanted to walk towards the complexity, embrace it and understand it to distil a simplicity of purpose and direction.
Giving clarity and definition to our work
Which leads me on to why I’m excited…' Making Prevention Happen' does give greater clarity and definition to our work. The strategy is a clarion call for much greater and sustained action and investment focused on the prevention of poor mental health. We recognise that there is still work to do to ensure that people who need effective care and support can access it but we also know that the nature of the challenge means we cannot only treat our way out of this crisis. Our prevention manifesto makes clear that the evidence shows that prevention is not only possible but urgently needed and relevant to mental health problems of all kinds.
It is the context of our lives and what happens to us that are the critical factors that affect our mental health. We must make the same public health gains in mental health that we have seen in physical health, and it’s urgently needed.
The strategy presents a vision of a society which puts our mental health at its heart with the concurrent benefits of greater fulfilment, improved quality of life, and increased productivity and life expectancy. This means addressing the reality that mental ill-health disproportionately affects people facing the greatest disadvantage in our society who are more exposed to key risk factors such as abuse, toxic work, discrimination, inequality, debt and social isolation. It also means doing the things that would protect everyone’s mental health like support for parents, emotional literacy in schools, supportive working relationships, reduced stigma and discrimination and more community engagement.
So what are we going to be doing to deliver this vision?
We have committed to three key steps:
The first is a commitment to finding solutions for everyone and for those at risk at the greatest scale possible. Our research and programmes teams work hard to test ideas in real-life settings that make a difference across the life course, for example with school children, those in later life, single mums or with refugees. We want to collaborate with others to take these ideas (and those of others) to scale, so that the maximum number of people can benefit.
The second is a commitment to advocating for solutions at a societal level that are vital to preventing mental health problems. We are going to put more resource and focus into harnessing people’s voice and concern on mental health to influence decision makers to take prevention seriously, across all parts of government. We want to be able to look back on a range of policies governments and others have adopted that tip the balance in favour of good mental health.
We have re-affirmed our commitment to walking our talk on mental health. That means striving to create what Amy Edmondson describes as a psychologically safe environment – a culture of high accountability but also high levels of safety which is vital for people to perform at their best. This is different from a workplace where you don’t ask difficult questions or avoid challenge, and it might mean going slower than we otherwise would as we build a culture of trust, openness and collaboration.
A strategy is step one. Now the hard work starts in ensuring we translate our words and intentions into real change.
Mental Health Foundation Strategy 2020-2025: Making Prevention Happen
Our five-year strategy places prevention at the heart of the Mental Health Foundation’s work, with a focus on preventing mental health problems before they happen and helping people to stay well.