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Parenting one way of improving mental health for everyone

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.”

Find out more about Better Mental Health for All

Written: 15/06/2016 , last modified: 18/10/2016