I came across this very interesting article from Andrew McCulloch who is chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, in yesterdays Guardian
Hope is on the horizon for mental health
The latest vision for mental health services is welcome, but now we must work on a long-term strategy to ensure all of its objectives are met
Ten years ago, New Labour launched the National Service Framework (NSF) – a new approach to detailed policy-making in healthcare. People in the mental health sector were delighted when told that one of the three priorities would be mental health, alongside cardiovascular disease and cancer. At last, its importance had been recognised.
A framework for mental health was shortly followed by the NHS Plan that set targets, matched with significant resources. Since then, mental health services in England have been at least partly transformed, and resources increased by about 50%. Key elements of the framework have been adopted around the world.
This is fantastic progress, but still does not match the massive need. Mental illness costs the UK economy £100bn a year, and one in four adults experience a mental health problem each year.
For the last two years, the mental health sector has been pressing government to replace the framework with a new policy vision. It has engaged closely with us to produce New Horizons, a vision for mental health, launched this week. The two questions now are: is the new vision a worthy successor to the NSF, and will it deliver? The pressure is great because the next 10 years are likely to be more challenging for mental health than any since the second world war.
There are many positives about New Horizons. First, it exists, when we could have had nothing. Second, it understands that good mental health can be delivered only by cross-government action. Issues such as jobs, schools, the environment and benefits are often more important to people's mental health than the quality of healthcare – and most people with common mental illness never go near a specialist mental health service. Third, it highlights the need for a mentally healthy population.
This public health approach to mental health is perhaps the most ground breaking aspect of the vision. Our mental health is important to all of us. Without it, we cannot be happy and healthy, we cannot function well in relationships or work, and we become more vulnerable to serious physical illness, such as heart disease, and specific mental illnesses, such as depression. We need to embed a much better understanding of good mental health in healthcare services, schools, workplaces and the general population. And we need to raise awareness about how people can protect their mental health. New Horizons starts the process with some key actions.
When it comes to helping those with a severe or enduring mental illness, the vision advocates a recovery-based approach. This means services will need to support individuals to rebuild their lives and achieve the goals they want. Important issues are often jobs, relationships, physical healthcare, and money.
The vision, however, lacks a long-term strategy as to how all of the objectives will be achieved. The next stage must be to work on the specifics, but the challenge will be to do so with little resource. We can explain to decision-makers how good mental health leads to better classroom experiences and better results for our children, and to businessmen how it leads to higher productivity.
In hard times, it's got to be a case of making the existing resources and systems work for better mental health.