Delivering good mental health for all
Will you choose good mental health for your community?
Our mental health is determined by our environments and life experiences. Our local authorities make choices every day that affect the well-being of tens of thousands of people. Local councillors have the power to influence decisions that will create safe, healthy communities that enable people to thrive. If elected, will you support actions that build well-being communities for all?
Mental health problems of all kinds can be prevented. Our mental health is a powerful asset. It is a key that allows us to unlock a wide range of health and social advantages. Yet mental health problems are currently costing the Scottish economy £8.8 billion per annum. This figure represents half of what the Scottish Government spent on health and sport in the 2021-22 financial year.
As we emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that councils invest in strategies to prevent mental health problems in all stages of life. For too long we’ve been firefighting by supporting people in crisis – addressing people’s mental well-being only after difficulties have arisen whilst the demand and pressure on frontline acute services continue to grow. Whilst these services are vitally important, they won’t, alone, reduce the number of people experiencing emotional distress.
We should re-balance our efforts towards prevention by addressing the root causes of poor mental health. The local government is well-placed to deliver transformational investment in community initiatives to promote good mental health. It is also important that all council departments, local health boards and health and social care partnerships work together for the effective prevention of mental health problems. Councillors elected in May should commit to the following actions to improve public mental health in their communities.
We have to stop thinking about mental health in a silo. All government departments including health, education, housing, employment, transport, culture, and justice can and should take action to promote good mental health.
Councils are well-placed to work in partnership with local third sector organisations to deliver a range of new mental health supports through community-based groups.
Everyday contact with nature is an important need for many and vital in keeping us emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthy. Spending time in green spaces, such as parks, is linked to improved life satisfaction, reduced anxiety, and increased happiness.
Childhood and young adulthood represent a particularly important time for development, well-being, and mental health. Some research suggests that around half of mental health problems develop by the mid-teens, with three-quarters established by the mid-twenties.
As Scotland emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, there is an invaluable opportunity to put the prevention of mental health problems at the heart of the public policy agenda. The local government is well-placed to deliver local assets and opportunities in a way that delivers good mental health for all. Our four recommendations, if adopted, would leverage local community actors across the nation and make a real difference in Scotland’s public mental health outcomes.