By Andy Bell

This week Public Health England published a major new set of resources to help local authorities and their partners take action to promote better mental health and prevent mental ill health in their communities.

The Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health brings together guidance for local councils with information, data and other resources in order to spur action to improve mental health and reduce inequalities. It summarises evidence, including new estimates of the returns on investment of a range of interventions designed to improve wellbeing and prevent mental health problems, to help local authorities to prioritise spending decisions to achieve the biggest possible impact.

For many local authorities, the starting point for action on public mental health is an understanding of the needs of their communities, of what helps or compromises people’s mental health, and of what can be done to promote wellbeing and reduce inequalities. Last year in Meeting the need, we investigated the ways that some pioneering local councils sought to do this in order to bring about action and make a difference in their areas.

What we found was that an effective mental health needs assessment is about a lot more than collecting and reporting data. It is much more about understanding and engaging with communities to understand what makes a difference to their mental health; it is about creating a process that brings together people and organisations in a local area with a common purpose to agree and implement an action plan; and it is about consistent leadership to champion mental health and hold systems to account for making a difference.

Many local councils have already taken concerted action on public mental health; leading the way in understanding their communities, in producing clear strategies to prompt action, and in building partnerships to deliver change. They serve as an inspiration to others to find their own ways to make an impact building on the Prevention Concordat and its resources.

The Mental Health Challenge for Local Authorities has now brought together 90 councils across England with elected member champions for mental health. Through their leadership and advocacy, mental health can be at the heart of local authorities’ efforts to protect and promote wellbeing in their communities.

 


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