John Middleton explains why mental health is a significant determinant and a consequence of physical health.

It is vital that public health practitioners understand mental health as a public health issue and step forward to provide strong leadership and prioritise mental health within public health practice. There are opportunities to influence determinants of mental health across local authority departments and through stronger integration with partners including the NHS. Elected members also have a role as leaders and advocates, such as by tackling stigma and building resilient communities.

The report, Better Mental Health For All, produced by the Faculty of Public Health, the Mental Health Foundation and Public Health England, aims to promote evidence and share best practice in public mental health. It contains a summary of entries submitted for a new FPH public mental health award, which featured at this year’s conference. Three of the short listed entries are featured in short films. These resources are intended to provide ideas and frameworks to support local public mental health strategies and work plans.

Here is our list of key actions that professionals working in public health and beyond can take to promote mental wellbeing.

  1. Wherever possible, move from deficit to strengths-based approaches. Ensure you promote good mental wellbeing, address the factors that create mental wellbeing and tackle mental health problems.
  2. Adopt a proportionate universalism approach, including universal interventions to promote mental wellbeing across whole populations, with more progressively targeted interventions.
  3. As part of the universal approach, ensure that you are working towards your own mental wellbeing and your colleagues.
  4. Work to ensure that mental health receives the same level of priority as physical health in your work.
  5. Adopt a life course approach. The foundations of mental health are laid down in infancy. Consider the opportunities through the commissioning of public health nursing.
  6. Focus on place-based intervention in settings such as schools, green spaces, workplaces and communities; think about emotional health alongside physical health.
  7. Challenge stigma and discrimination by increasing mental health and wellbeing literacy across the whole population. Include interventions to improve understanding of the impact stigma and discrimination have on people with mental health problems.
  8. Contribute to the expansion of the public mental health evidence base: focus on interventions and activities that make the biggest impact.
  9. Ensure that you build evaluation into everyday practice and monitor the effects of practice on mental health.
  10. Whether you work in a specialised or generalised role, consider what you can do within your sphere of influence to advance the public’s mental health as a leader, partner and advocate.

John Middleton is president, Faculty of Public Health