Councils need better information to champion mental health

13 December 2013

Local councils in England need better information about the mental health and wellbeing of the people they serve in order to close the gap between mental and physical health of their communities, say charities and health professionals.

Publishing ten questions for councillors and health champions to ask their public health teams, organisations including the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Centre for Mental Health are asking every local authority in England to find out how many people in their area have mental health problems or poor wellbeing, how many are at risk and what proportion receive help.

The ten questions aim to help local authorities promote the wellbeing of their population and improve the recovery of people with mental health problems by providing information about the size, impact and cost of the unmet need to both treat mental health problems, to prevent them from arising and to promote wellbeing. Addressing such unmet need can result in a broad range of local impacts and associated economic savings even in the short term.

The ten questions are endorsed by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Recent reports from Centre for Mental Health and the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition have shown that many local health and wellbeing strategies are not focusing on mental health. This is in part due to lack of information about mental health in their local needs assessments.

The ten questions are being published as part of the local authority mental health challenge, a joint initiative from Centre for Mental Health, the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and YoungMinds to support local leadership in mental health. So far at least 15 councils have taken up the challenge and appointed member champions for mental health.

Time to Change ambassador Alastair Campbell, who has also lent his support to the mental health challenge and the need for better information about the size of the intervention gap, said: “At a time when the importance of good mental health and the need for parity is finally gaining recognition, it is vital that people have the services they need at a local level.

“By answering these questions, councils will go some way to having a better understanding of what the current state of play is and what can be done to improve services. Only yesterday it was revealed that referrals for services are rising at a time services are being cut. That has to be addressed.”

Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Local councillors are at the heart of communities. Having such enthusiasm from them to become mental health champions will make a real contribution to increased understanding of the needs of those with mental illness, and of how to build psychosocial resilience across communities.”

The ten questions will also be sent to MPs from across the country to help them to find out more about the mental health needs of their constituencies and how well these are currently being met.

The mental health challenge

Local authorities have a key role in implementing the mental health strategy and improving mental health in their communities. We (see right) want to support and encourage local authorities to take a proactive approach to this crucial issue. So we’ve set up the Challenge.

We are asking all upper tier local authorities to take up The Mental Health Challenge which sets out ten actions that will enable councils to promote mental health across all of their business. Go to the Challenge website to find out more about the ten actions.