Prevention and mental health report: Understanding the evidence so that we can address the greatest health challenge of our times

Mental health should be valued and understood as a key that allows us to unlock a wide range of health and social advantages. When this resource is damaged, it leaves us unable to reach our collective potential.

No other group of health conditions comes close to mental health problems in relation to the prevalence, persistence and breadth of damage that can be caused, requiring the most urgent public health commitment of our generation.

So much has changed in recent decades about how we view and treat mental health. Now is the time to build on this positive change and join the call that makes the most sense: preventing mental health problems.

Graphic of an umbrella in the rain, with the Mental Health Foundation green ribbon symbol

This report covers:

  • An immense challenge: we all have mental health, but not all of us live with good mental health. We look at the scale of mental health problems in society
  • Prevention is possible: to learn how we can prevent mental heath problems, we need to search for answers to the fundamental question: what causes mental health problems?
  • The causes of mental health problems: a singular approach to what causes mental health problems is simplistic and not backed by evidence. We know it is a combination of factors.
  • One integrated model of mental health: we now need to focus on one model that pulls together the biological, psychological, social and environmental factors.
  • Our life events: even for the small minority of us living with high levels of positive mental heath, days of low mood, stressful tasks at work or struggles with a change in our circumstances will be familiar.
  • Quality of life: to have a better chance of addressing the challenge of poor mental health in our societies, we need to understand an important fact: that the healthier we are mentally, the healthier we will be physically as well. But mental health is a very personal experience. 
  • One health: the relationship between mental and physical health is one of extremely high importance. We know that mental and physical health interact in several direct and indirect ways.
  • The meaning of prevention: when we talk about prevention, we don't follow the narrow sense of the term.
  • Investing in prevention: to address mental health problems, we would need a concentrated effort as a society, tackling those persistent inequalities with prevention and early intervention
  • What is holding us back: building a society where mental heath is everyone's business should be a no-brainer Prevention is possible.
  • Our emotions and our attitudes: our evolution as human beings has left a complicated picture of how we express our emotions.
  • Making a start on prevention: it is clear we must now personally and collectively do as much as we can to protect our mental health.

A-Z Topic: Prevention and mental health

Prevention is an important approach to improving mental health. It means stopping mental health problems from developing, getting worse or coming back.

Statistics: Prevention and early intervention

Despite the cost-effectiveness of preventing mental health problems in the long term, there are gaps in the research base on prevention of mental ill health.

Podcast: 'Mental ill health prevention: the whats, whys and hows?'

Bethan asks Dr Antonis Kousoulis the BIG questions about mental health: How has our view of mental health problems changed over the last 70 years? What is the scale of the mental ill health problem we face today?

Blog: '70 years on: do we understand prevention?'

We are all about prevention at The Mental Health Foundation and 2019 marks 70 years since the organisation was founded, then known as the Mental Health Research Fund.

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