Mental health charities Mind and the Mental Health Foundation have called on councils across the UK to prioritise mental health within their public health strategy.
The charities say that their new report 'Building resilient communities' highlights the need for support so people can look after their mental health whilst funding for public services is being restricted.
Mind’s Director of External Relations Sophie Corlett said: “As public health teams find their feet within local authorities, now is a key moment to be making the case for the importance of public mental health. We want to see teams recognising that improving the wellbeing of their community will improve their wider health outcomes as well as saving money.
“Working in a new environment will present exciting opportunities for public health teams to adopt a more integrated approach through Health and Wellbeing Boards. Local Authorities must grasp this opportunity now as we cannot afford for mental health to be forgotten.”
Strategies must touch the whole community
According to the report the total cost of mental health problems will increase by 36% between 2002/03 and 2009/10, with a particularly large increase in the cost of health and social care (+70%).
The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the second biggest cause of illness by 2020 and by 2026, the number of people in England who experience a mental health problem is projected to increase by 14%, from 8.65 million in 2007 to 9.88 million, even before the impact of the current economic climate is taken into account.
The report concludes that "to be successful, public mental health strategies must touch a whole community and involve the whole community in both their development and delivery; it is essential that we make every contact count for wellbeing".
Protect community against poor mental health
Simon Lawton-Smith, Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation added: “We ignore public mental health at our peril. The recession means this is a challenging time for many individuals and wider communities. It is now more important than ever that people’s mental health is made a public health priority.
"Local authorities must seize this opportunity to develop clear public mental health strategies. This report highlights the importance of services and activities that glue communities together and that build people’s emotional resilience.
"If these strategies are to be successful, it is vital that those living in the most difficult life circumstances receive targeted support to build their resilience while steps are taken to include the whole local community to protect against the development of poor mental health."
For more information and to download the report in full visit www.mind.org.uk/publicmentalhealth