No health without mental health
By Jessica Brown
No Health without Mental Health is a cross-government mental health strategy. It was published on 2nd Feb 2011, and sets out to encompass the government’s acknowledgement that standards, stigma and solutions of mental health in England requires improvement and investment.
This is the government addressing what many people have known for a long time – that there isn’t any health without mental health. The strategy is a promise that mental health will have a higher priority within the new health care system in England.
What is it?
This strategy is pledging that more people will have good mental health, and it is the first of its kind. It represents advancement in the government’s aim to achieve complete equality in the treatment of mental health, with emphasis on the decision-making power at a local level. It is highlighting the connection between mental health, employment, crime, drug abuse, physical health and housing.
The government says: "By integrating physical and mental health care and ensuring both have equal prominence in planning and delivering health and social care services, we can not only improve the support people receive for their overall health but also save taxpayers’ money."
What is being done?
One of the strategy’s aims is to promote early intervention, particularly in childhood and early adolescence as this is a stage in life where 70% of mental health problems first materialise. The government will also work to reduce risk factors of mental health problems, including employment and housing. It has set out six overall goals:
- More people will have good mental health
- More people with mental health problems will have good physical health
- More people with mental health problems will recover
- Fewer people will experience stigma and discrimination
- Fewer people will suffer avoidable harm
- The Department of Health is investing £400 million between 2011 and 2015 in talking therapies across England
- Clinical Commissioning Groups, new bodies fronted by GPs, will start to emerge in April 2013 with the aim of involving patients more closely in decisions about their care
- The government will invest a further £18 million to the Time to Change anti-stigma campaign
- Ministers plan to make sure that mental health stays high on the government’s agenda
How will it affect me?
- More treatment choice
- Improved public understanding of mental health
- Promotion of mental wellbeing in the workplace
- Help with returning to/starting work
What exactly will it involve?
- The main aim of this strategy is to get across the message that mental health is just as important to people as their mental health. It will pay great attention to experts in the field, and will draw on commitments from all Whitehall departments, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector.
- It will be influenced by the Big Society, with power moving away from the centre. The aim is to have more decisions about mental health made locally.
- A well as the Big Society, the government's approach is based on the principles of the health reforms, such as ‘No decision about me without me’ - giving people access to support and information in order to make informed decisions about their health. The Government is also helping those with mental health problems stay in employment, as well as enter and return to work.
- The repealing of the law which states that MPs must stand down if they have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act for more than six months, which is a strong start to the strategy
Why is this happening now?
Now that the health and social care bill has passed its final hurdle, we will be seeing reform across our health service. Also, the UK economy dipping back into recession has been one catalyst, as the recession has accounted for a rise in mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety. As the statistics rise it is crucial that more attention is paid to this problem. The World Health Organisation has predicted that in only eight years’ time, depression will be the most common illness suffered from.
The government has rightly pointed out that there is a lot to gain from targeting mental health. When mental health improves, so does productivity in the workforce and housing – therefore mental health improves even more. It has acknowledged that spending cuts to mental health is not a wise investment – investing in the country’s mental health is investing in the future.
How has it been received?
In general, this strategy has been very well received. Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer said: “From its title onwards ‘No health without mental health’ recognises the crucial fact that mental health is not simply a ‘health’ issue to be covered by the Department of Health in isolation, rather it affects every area of a person’s life and can drastically impact upon their ability to play an active role in society.
Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation, Simon Lawton-Smith said: “On the whole, we have been very impressed with how they have delivered on this pledge. We are also pleased with the holistic, life-long approach to mental health that the strategy takes.
The use of preventative and early intervention approaches to prevent mental ill-health in young people before they crisis point, a policy that we as a charity have long campaigned for, is to be expanded with the support of a £400m investment. And into old age, there is recognition of the need to tackle the rising problem of depression, alongside problems more commonly associated with old age, such as dementia – another particularly welcome development."
Mental health is getting the equal footing that it deserves – we can hope for the effects and causes of mental health to be tackled from all angles.