Our place

7 August 2020

Local authorities and the public’s mental health

Louis Allwood

Promoting positive mental wellbeing and preventing mental health problems helps us stay healthy, live meaningful lives and avoid serious (and sometimes lifelong) distress. Preventing mental health problems requires an understanding that mental health is interwoven with other agendas – including housing, employment, social inclusion, economic development, and safety. Local authorities are uniquely placed to connect all parts of the system. They have the ability to knit together their own strategies to work towards fewer health inequalities and better mental health for all.

Our place: local authorities and the public’s mental health examines the initiatives of local councils that are rising to the challenge of promoting good mental health and preventing poor mental health in their communities. These councils seek to improve population mental health, reduce inequalities and prevent mental ill health in their communities through a combination of strategic and practical approaches. The report presents learning from these areas, prior to the pandemic and in the midst of the challenges brought by Covid-19, alongside an overview of the evidence for prevention and the national policy context.

We looked at nine local councils that are pioneering work in this area:

  • Basildon Borough Council – Health in all policies
  • Birmingham City Council – Prioritising upstream mental health support
  • Bristol City Council – Thrive Bristol: Thriving at Work
  • Camden and Islington Council – Addressing determinants of poor mental health using Making Every Contact Count (MECC) and Psychologically Informed Consultation and Training (PICT)
  • Leeds City Council – Mentally Healthy Leeds: a whole city approach
  • Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council – Stronger Sandwell: asset-based community development for better mental health
  • St Albans City and District Council – A strategic approach in a district level authority
  • Surrey County Council – Developing a long term strategy at county level
  • Tameside and Glossop Strategic Commission – Living Well: integration and neighbourhood support.

There is a real risk that many more people will experience mental ill health in the wake of the pandemic. But, by taking affirmative action to reduce the risk of serious and long-lasting mental health problems, it will be possible to help individuals and communities to recover. While it’s not possible to prevent all mental ill health either now or at any other time, it is possible to boost communities’ resilience and help people to ‘bounce back’ from the crisis. The nine case studies in this document demonstrate promising approaches to achieving this.


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