What can local governments do to improve mental health?

In line with our vision to shape a world with good mental health for all, helping people understand, protect and sustain their mental health, we have published our first Health inequalities manifesto for local government.

We see this year's local elections in England as an opportunity to raise awareness of the root causes of inequalities and the actions that can be taken by local and combined authorities. It is essential to allocate public mental health interventions in an evidenced-based, meaningful way to ensure proportionate investment.

Having written extensively about the approaches that can be taken to address mental health inequalities and how to prevent mental health problems from occurring or recurring, our manifesto provides a concise overview of the challenges faced and presents the local actions that can be taken to address mental health inequalities. 

Five priorities to improve population mental health

  1. Healthy children.
  2. Healthy minds.
  3. Healthy places.
  4. Healthy communities.
  5. Healthy habits.

What local and combined authorities can do

  • promote emotional wellbeing and build resilience from birth through universal and targeted programmes
  • introduce a comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach to address mental health promotion, prevention, treatment, discrimination, exclusion, care and recovery
  • apply a socio-ecological approach that takes account of the impact on mental health of the social and physical environment, within homes and in settings such as schools and communities
  • adopt a place-based approach to protecting and supporting good mental health and wellbeing in the community
  • give people the knowledge, tools and resources to protect and improve their own and their families’ and friends’ mental health.

The relationship between inequalities related to socio-economic status and protected characteristics and poor mental health is two-way: experiencing disadvantage and adversity increases the risk of mental health problems and experiencing mental health problems increases the risk of experiencing disadvantage.

Mental health problems can create a spiral of adversity where related factors such as employment, income and relationships are impacted, and these things, in turn, are known to contribute to, compound and entrench mental health problems.

Mental health problems are unequally distributed

Although mental health problems can affect anyone at any time, they are not equally distributed, and prevalence varies across social groups. Certain groups in society have an elevated risk of developing mental health problems. This vulnerability is brought about by societal factors and the environments in which they live. We urgently need to act to ensure these factors are recognised in deciding on priorities for action, and that these groups are provided with the tools they need not just to survive but to thrive. 

In working to reduce the prevalence and the distress caused by mental health problems, we need to start at the earliest point possible. We strongly advocate for approaches and interventions that reduce the risk factors underpinning inequalities and the application of these proportionately across the social gradient and look forward to working with local and combined authorities to achieve these ambitions.

We need your help

As we work towards our vision of a world with good mental health for all, we need to influence government policy at all levels to ensure it makes for a mentally healthy society. We can't do this without your help - please consider a donation today.

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