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Josepha Reynolds

Mental health is forever, not just for a week

Mental health has been a hot topic in local authorities for years, and huge strides have been made in how councils recognise and respond to mental health. However, there is still progress to be made. Mental health continues to be seen as separate to physical health in terms of treatment and significance. But this isn’t the case!

At IMPOWER we know that resilience and good mental health are crucial to achieve the best outcomes for people, as well as manage demand in the health and social care system. Social isolation has a significant impact on the health of older people, while over 80% of carers say that caring impacted them both physically and emotionally. There is a strong correlation between feeling that you belong to a community and have a purpose, and keeping well – all showing that mental health is intertwined with health and social care as a whole.

Let’s use Mental Health Awareness Week to think and reflect about how the health and social care system can help to deliver the best mental health outcomes possible and make sure that mental health discussions aren’t just for a week, but all year round. In my view, there are four key things that need to be done:

  1. Broaden the definition of ‘mental health’. Mental health encompasses a range of conditions, from stress, depression and dementia, and everything in between. This means that everyone has some direct experience in this area – and how crucial it is to our wellbeing. When someone’s mental health suffers, it can have a huge impact on them and their support networks.
  2. Remember the importance of prevention and early intervention. It should not take a crisis to recognise the importance of mental health. Not everything needs to be a ‘big bang’ solution – sometimes people just need someone to listen, someone to turn to, or someone to help them plan. There are some amazing examples of new ways to respond to mental health – you can even get books on prescription at places like Reading Well.
  3. Think about where mental health is popping up across the system – when we work with councils’ contact centres and their front door, a problem we hear time and time again is that people cannot access the help they need to support their mental health, which then has a direct effect on their wider health, and the frontline has to manage. We need to reframe the problem to show that mental health is not an individual issue, but a societal one.
  4. Take care of our health and social care workforce. Health and social care, in all its forms, is the biggest employer in the country. Social workers, nurses and the community deliver amazing support, and we need to help them to deliver great outcomes at the frontline. Creating supportive working environments, rolling out strengths-based practice and empowering client ownership is essential to delivering the best mental health support system.

At IMPOWER we want to make sure that mental health awareness is front and centre of all health and social care support. Get in touch to find out more.

Read more: Charlotte Levey’s recent blogpost focuses on the need to destigmatise and enhance accessibility of children and young people’s mental health support.

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