Measures in the public health white paper to promote mental well-being have been welcomed by leading psychiatrists.

President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Dinesh Bhugra has said that the evidence clearly showed that mental ill-health was closely associated with physical illness and that it was in everyone’s interests to tackle contributory factors.

The white paper says that more focus will be placed on “improving self-esteem and promoting positive social norms” at schools and promoting good mental health among the young.

Professor Bhurga said: “We welcome the recognition of the need to intervene early to protect children’s health and wellbeing. In the past, public health strategies have concentrated on physical health, and overlooked the importance of both mental illness and mental well-being.”

Last month, the Royal College of Psychiatrists published evidence showing that half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, people from the poorest households are at much greater risk of mental-ill health, and mental illness is closely linked to the major public health issues such as smoking, obesity and alcohol abuse.

“We know that promoting mental health and well-being in the population can bring significant health, social and economic benefits across all sectors of society.

“The challenge now is to ensure that the coalition government’s prioritisation of public health translates into action to tackle mental health at a national and local level. With responsibility for public health delivery set to be transferred to local authorities, it is important that directors of public health understand that mental health is central to public health debates,” Professor Bhurga said.

Few surprises in public health white paper