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About FPH

The UK Faculty of Public Health (FPH) is committed to improving and protecting people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. Our vision is for better health for all, where people are able to achieve their fullest potential for a healthy, fulfilling life through a fair and equitable society. We work to promote understanding of public health issues and to drive improvements in public health policy and practice.

As the leading professional body for public health specialists in the UK, our members are trained to the highest possible standards of public health competence and practice, as set by FPH. With 3,300 members, in the UK and internationally, we work to develop knowledge and understanding, and to promote excellence in the field of public health. For more than 40 years, we have been at the forefront of developing and expanding the public health workforce and profession.

Contact the press office:
Tel: 020 3696 1478
Out of office enquiries: 07703 715106

Latest press release:

(15 June 2016)


New report shows how improving everyone’s mental wellbeing can help prevent mental health problems

The Faculty of Public Health (FPH) is today [Wednesday 15 June] publishing a ground-breaking report about public mental health, which makes the case for improving mental health for everyone and preventing mental health problems.

Better Mental Health For All: a public health approach to mental health improvement is the work of the FPH’s Mental Health Committee in conjunction with the Mental Health Foundation. Public Health England supported the project financially, which enabled the FPH to commission the Mental Health Foundation’s involvement and support for production. It also enabled the FPH to launch the inaugural Public Mental Health Award.

The report is supported by a new FPH award to share best practice in public mental health, and three of the shortlisted entries have been filmed. The overall winner of the award is the Torbay Lion’s Collective project, for its innovative work in tackling men’s suicide rates.

Other shortlisted entries include the emotional wellbeing support that Somerset Council provided to residents forced to leave their homes because of flooding, and how residents in Lanarkshire are benefiting from the ‘social prescribing’ of exercise and self-help books to help reduce prescribing of medication.

Professor John Ashton, President of FPH, said: “Mental illness affects everyone – either through our own experience, or our family and friends. Mental, emotional or psychological problems account for more disability than all physical health problems put together. There can be no health without mental health.

“Although we cannot say yet exactly how much of the burden of mental illness could be prevented, we know prevention is possible. While there is some disagreement about how best to achieve it, using the best available evidence while working with uncertainty is common practice for our profession.

“Given the huge financial and human cost of mental health problems, we must do more to tackle their causes, just as we have done for physical health problems like cardiovascular disease. We also need more research to establish the most effective ways of doing this.

“That is why we are delighted to have received support from Public Health England to work with the Mental Health Foundation to share best practice in public mental health. It is time to look beyond treating mental health problems – vital though that is – and take a positive and practical approach to improving mental health.

“We need everyone working in public health to help people to feel good, function well and preventing them becoming ill in the first place."

Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, Chair of FPH’s Mental Health Committee which took the lead in producing the report, said:

“Most people understand the links between diet, exercise and physical health problems. We are less aware that mental health problems underpin many physical illnesses.

“There are many ways to improve mental health. Both diet and physical activity play a role here too, but supporting parenting is key and the first 1,001 days of a child’s life are particularly important. Over three-quarters of all mental health problems emerge in childhood and adolescence.

“A growing evidence base demonstrates further ways to improve mental health. These include programmes and initiatives based in schools, workplaces, general practice, primary care and in the community, like those which have received awards from FPH this year. This report covers this evidence base and gives practical tools for professionals to promote wellbeing and prevent mental health problems.”

Marguerite Regan, Policy Manager at the Mental Health Foundation said:
“It’s imperative that a public health perspective is taken within mental health to change the current crisis and reactive service model. The report shows that we know how much can be done to promote mental health and wellbeing across all age groups, prevent mental health problems from occurring and to support people to recover their mental health.

“The report is an evidence based resource for people who want to create real change in local communities. The economic and social costs of mental distress are so great that we need to invest in upstream interventions in the places where people live, learn, work and play. Public health professionals, commissioners and elected representatives have a critical leadership role to play and Mental Health Foundation values this opportunity to support their work.”


The three films are available via this link:

Executive summary of Better Mental Health for All: a public health approach to mental health improvement

This report focuses on what can be done individually and collectively to enhance the mental health of individuals, families and communities by using a public health approach. It is intended as a resource for public health practitioners to support the development of knowledge and skills in public mental health. It presents the latter from the perspective of those working within public health, giving valuable interdisciplinary perspectives that focus on achieving health gains across the population.

Public mental health is fundamental to public health in general because mental health is a determinant and consequence of physical health as well as a resource for living. A public mental health approach is concerned with promoting mental wellbeing, preventing future mental health problems and with recovery from mental health problems. The Faculty of Public Health has published this resource to encourage a proportionate universal approach with a focus on the promotion of mental wellbeing and on high level support for those at risk of poor mental health and mental health problems. In this way the resource complements recovery and prevention approaches.

•    Section one maps out why mental health is an important and often overlooked aspect of overall health.
Supportive policy is emerging across the UK, but the full potential for public mental health is yet to be addressed. Provision on the ground of interventions and services that support public mental health has been badly affected by austerity measures. The economic and social costs of mental health problems are very high. Calculations to date have failed to take into account the additional value to society of improving mental wellbeing or the adverse effects on physical health.

Equality, diversity and the social determinants of health are as relevant in public mental health as they are in public health in general. To successfully address mental health, current models of practice need expanding to include:
•    Psychological, sociological and interpersonal approaches,
•    Interventions that acknowledge the central role of the social context in which people live including infant development and family relationships,
•    Intersectional and cumulative impacts of discrimination, poverty and exclusion.

Section two outlines the risk and protective factors through the life course and across communities.
Over three-quarters of all mental health problems have emerged by the age of twenty, making childhood determinants primary in future mental wellbeing. Of these determinants, family relationships are pre-eminent because they mould the infant social and emotional brain and thus determine vulnerability throughout life. Later in life, risk and protective factors are important because they influence rates of recovery, remission and relapse from physical health conditions as well as mental health problems.

Section three addresses approaches and interventions to improve mental health at different stages of the life course and in different settings.

Given the complex interaction of mental health determinants, public mental health needs to expand its research and methodology beyond traditional quantitative approaches, such as randomised controlled trials, to co-produce studies with communities and adopt mixed methods approaches as well as newer approaches such as realist evaluation. The Roadmap for Mental Health in Europe Study contributes to a broader understanding of public mental health research and evaluation.

Interventions at different life stages and in different places interact with each other. To address family determinants, adult parents need support, knowledge, insight, strong supportive communities as well as a fairer and more equal society with a better distribution of opportunities.

Section four offers a practical guide to enable practitioners to support their own mental wellbeing.
Public health professionals should invest in activities to explore and enhance their own mental wellbeing and the mental wellbeing of those they work with. This will enhance their practice through the insights and experience it generates.

A call to action
It is vital that public health practitioners become advocates for public mental health providing strong leadership and prioritising mental health within current public health practices. Here is a list of key actions that all professionals working in public health and beyond can take to promote mental wellbeing and prevent mental health problems.

Whether you work in a specialised public health role or generalist/general work force, consider what you can do within your sphere of influence to advance the public’s mental health as a leader, partner and advocate.
1.    Move, wherever possible, from deficit to strengths-based approaches and ensure you promote good mental wellbeing, address the factors that create mental wellbeing and tackle mental health problems.
2.    Adopt a proportionate universalism approach, including universal interventions to promote mental wellbeing across whole populations, with more progressively targeted interventions to address specific needs among more vulnerable and at risk groups.
3.    As part of the universal approach, ensure that you are working towards your own mental wellbeing and that of your colleagues.
4.    Move towards ensuring mental health receives the same billing and priority as physical health in your work.
5.    Adopt a life course approach. The foundations of mental health are laid down in infancy in the context of family relationships. Place-based intervention in settings such as schools, workplaces and communities complements the life course approach and makes the most of existing opportunities.
6.    Reduce stigma and discrimination by increasing mental health and wellbeing literacy across the whole population. Include interventions to improve understanding of the impact stigma and discrimination have on the lives of people with mental health problems.
7.    Contribute to the expansion of the public mental health evidence base and focus on the interventions and activities that make the biggest impact.
8.    Ensure that you build evaluation into everyday practice and monitor the effects of practice on mental health.

Throughout the report, case studies showcase examples of innovative public mental health programmes and projects being run across the UK. These were selected from the thirty entries submitted to the Faculty of Public Health 2016 Public Mental Health Awards and celebrate the public health professionals who are pioneering role models for public mental health.

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