For nearly thirty years, nations across the world have come together on 10 October to shine a spotlight on mental health. This year, World Mental Health Day feels more important than ever as we feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our daily lives.
We have adapted to wearing masks and socially distancing from friends, family and neighbours. Some of us will have lost loved ones or be worrying about losing our income or jobs as we enter recession. What effect could these changes have on our mental health as a nation and what is PHE’s response?
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for sustained action to improve the population’s mental health and wellbeing, prevent mental health problems and suicide, and improve the physical health and quality of life of those experiencing mental health problems. Understanding the impact of the pandemic on our mental health is fundamental to providing an effective response.
Reflecting on this year’s theme of ‘mental health for all’, this blog highlights some of the important work that PHE has been leading to advance good population mental health.
Better data and evidence
PHE provides a world class mental health intelligence service. From the beginning of lockdown, we have produced a surveillance report, which presents close to real-time intelligence on the mental health and wellbeing of the population in England during the COVID-19 pandemic. It compiles routinely updated indicators from multiple sources and summarises important findings from a pre-defined set of studies. It aims to influence policy, planning and commissioning in health and social care at national and local level.
The surveillance report is updated regularly and each month there is a spotlight on key themes. For example, this month’s key themes are gender and ethnicity.
PHE is responsible for providing evidence-based advice and solutions to the key problems affecting the public’s health and wellbeing. We do this by working collaboratively with; public mental health experts, research bodies, other government departments, the public and policy makers to improve public mental health research and its translation into policy and practice.
To enhance this work, we have appointed a Public Mental Health researcher, in partnership with City University.
Tackling inequalities in mental health outcomes
PHE has a role in supporting local authorities to invest effectively in public mental health services and to create physical, social and economic environments that promote and facilitate good mental health. This includes scaling up interventions that work, to support whole system and place-based approaches that reduce inequalities. There is good evidence of what interventions can lead to improved mental health outcomes and what will also provide a positive return on investment at a population level.
Taking a prevention-focused approach to improving the public’s mental health has shown to make a valuable contribution to achieving a fairer and more equitable society.
The Prevention Concordat programme, coordinated by PHE, has provided guidance, advice and support to all localities to build robust, sector-wide prevention plans and partnerships. The next steps are to refresh the programme, particularly for localities with the most deprived and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic populations, to work with local government, clinical commissioners in Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and Integrated Care Systems. PHE will provide guidance for evaluation and quality assurance and support the delivery of integrated planning, to make an impact on population mental health locally.
Mental health literacy
Being able to understand mental health and wellbeing information, and having the skills to use information to make informed choices, is known as mental health literacy.
PHE launched Every Mind Matters (EMM) in October 2019, which has led to over two million adults making personal action plans for their mental health. In April, we updated the EMM resources to specifically help people manage the impact of COVID-19, lockdown and the economic consequences of the pandemic on their mental health. In September, we launched a digital hub aimed at parents and carers and young people, focusing on those more negatively impacted by COVID-19 and more likely to develop a mental health problem.
This work has been developed with, and supported by, key charities and experts in Children and Young People’s mental health, as well as NHS England and Improvement and the Department for Education.
Finally, supporting those who support others is essential. We have launched our updated e-learning module for Psychological First Aid (PFA). PFA is globally recommended training for supporting people during emergencies and explores the psychological impact of COVID-19. To date more than 80,000 people have enrolled and 30,000 people have completed the whole course.
As we go forward this year, we will continue our efforts to support better mental health for all. You can access all of our EMM resources here.