Targeting resources to communities where the need is greatest can have a major impact on people’s mental health, according to a new report from charity Centre for Mental Health. The report, Made in communities, is the national evaluation of the UK Government’s Better Mental Health Fund.
The Better Mental Health Fund supported communities in 40 of the most deprived areas of England to tackle some of the biggest threats to people’s mental health in the wake of the pandemic and showed what investing in local areas could achieve for the public’s mental health.
Made in communities, by David Woodhead, Zoë McHayle and Karen Newbigging, finds that proper funding for public mental health work can prevent people’s mental health from deteriorating further at the first signs of need.
The evaluation of the government’s Better Mental Health Fund explored the impact of grants for local areas in England with high levels of deprivation, in response to the unequal impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. It found that the Fund had made a positive impact on the mental health of residents, at a time that people’s wellbeing was under exceptional pressure.
The £15 million fund was distributed to 40 of the most deprived local areas in England, including South Tyneside, Blackpool, Birmingham and Torbay. It funded a wide range of community-led local initiatives focusing on preventing poor mental health, from peer support groups and carers’ hubs to health apps and anti-bullying support. Local authorities worked closely with voluntary and community sector organisations to create bespoke solutions to each area’s needs. The Fund created tailored initiatives to meet the needs of specific communities, such as a Muslim mental health platform and an LGBTQ+ support group.
Centre for Mental Health’s evaluation found that the funded projects improved wellbeing and boosted communities’ resilience. It reinforces evidence demonstrating that investing in evidence-based public mental health interventions can make a difference in people’s lives. But it also highlights that this type of support is often precariously funded by short-term grants, limiting its potential.
Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health at Blackpool Council, said: “The Better Mental Health Fund has allowed us to pilot innovative projects to promote mental health and wellbeing. Some of our projects have continued because we were able to demonstrate they worked for our residents. Now more than ever we need investment in mental health, to help our communities in these challenging times.”
Dr David Woodhead PhD, Associate Director of Research at Centre for Mental Health, said: “Mental health is made in communities. Investing in communities to boost people’s mental health makes sense and makes a difference. The Better Mental Health Fund adds to the overwhelming evidence of what can be achieved by trusting in local councils and their community partners. Yet chronic underfunding of public health services has left local councils with much less capacity than they need to protect and promote people’s mental health. The case for proper resourcing of public mental health has never been greater: indeed, it will be a vital element in our recovery from the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.”