integrationA whole community approach that looks at the needs and risks of everyone before drawing up a mental health prevention strategy could help to drive down the incidence of mental ill health, according to a report. 

The report, Mental health and prevention: taking local action for better mental health, by the Mental Health Foundation and commissioned by Public Health England, sets out evidence of the ways to tackle the growing level of mental ill health.

It sets out a road map to bring about a prevention revolution in mental health, delivered in every local area. The report helped shape Public Health England’s input into the NHS Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

A whole-community approach is advocated throughout the report. This means that a local area, a school, and employer, a public service or any organisation would look at the risks and needs of everyone before drawing up a strategy to encourage overall mental health literacy and a proportionate approach that brings in more help and attention as risk increases. Understanding and responding to different levels of risk and resilience requires services in all areas to achieve a picture of the mental health inequalities in the population they serve.

Outlining how this would work in practical terms, the report suggests that mental health improvement should be integrated into daily work, with messages and interventions tailored to address the specific circumstances of those at highest risk of developing mental health problems.

The report explores different life stages, showcasing methods to improve people’s mental health across the life-course, from infant mental health, to supporting good mental health in later life.

Jenny Edwards CBE, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: "The evidence presented in this report should inform the local prevention plans for mental health in every local authority area, should help make sure that these are based on sound evidence and analysis of the key data, and should support effective work in each area to drive down the incidence of mental ill health over the years to come.

“Taking Local Action for Better Mental Health provides the evidence and sets out options for effective and practical solutions to the challenges each area faces. Building on good work in many parts of the country we intend it to help create a wider understanding of the power of an effective public mental health approach to cut the levels of mental ill health that devastate lives in all our communities.”

Isabella Goldie, one of the authors of the report and director of development and delivery at the Mental Health Foundation added: "We need to be taking advantage of opportunities to improve mental health at all stages of life, in particular at life’s pressure points; the crucial times of transition from one life stage to another when any of us can encounter difficulties. If we are to rise to the challenge of reducing the prevalence of mental health problems, we need to step in early and take evidence based preventative measures that can stop problems from developing in the first place.

“This requires a shift away from the ‘deficit model’ in which we wait for mental health problems to develop before taking action, to one where good mental health is recognised as a universal asset to be strengthened and protected.”

To read the full report, click here.