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New Vision For Mental Health, Wellbeing

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The millions of people who suffer from or might face mental illness at some point in their lives will be the focus of a new strategy, Care Services Minister Phil Hope announced today.

"New Horizons" is a new strategy that will promote good mental health and well-being, whilst improving services for people who have mental health problems. It will build on the National Service Framework for mental health - widely acknowledged as the catalyst for a transformation in mental health care over the last ten years - which comes to an end in 2009.

A series of New Horizons 'listening events' starts this month hosted by Phil Hope and Louis Appleby, National Director for Mental Health. They will seek views on what the new Strategy should cover from a wide range of people. The Strategy is expected later this year.

New Horizons recognises that:

* Around one in four people will suffer from a form of mental illness at some point in their lives.

* One sixth of the population suffers from a common mental health problem at any time.

* 1 in 100 people suffers from a serious mental illness such as psychosis.

* More than 1.3 million older people suffer from depression or other mental illness.

* 6 million people in Britain have depression and/or anxiety disorders - few get effective treatment.

* One in ten mothers suffers from post-natal depression.

New Horizons heralds a dynamic new approach to whole population mental health. The focus on prevention and maintaining good mental health is particularly relevant today with people leading more hectic lifestyles and going through the economic downturn.

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Phil Hope said: "Mental illness affects us all. Whether it is ourselves, a family member or a friend, lots of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives.

"Over the past ten years we've made great strides in transforming the way mental health is dealt with. But we need to do more. I'm particularly interested in looking at how we can help people to look after their mental health and prevent them from becoming ill. And I'm keen to tackle the stigma that's associated with it - this isn't something we can shy away from, mental ill health is as serious as physical illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

"Individuals, employers and all sorts of organisations have a role to play in helping to achieve good mental health for all. So, we're going around the country to hear people's views and hope to publish our new vision later this year. My ambition is to create a strategy that will improve services and promote public mental health and wellbeing for years to come."

Simon Lawton-Smith, Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation, said: "We strongly support this new focus on whole population mental health. Mental ill health is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the UK. Good mental health should be an achievable goal for everyone and mental health promotion needs to take its rightful place at the centre of public health efforts.

"A strategy that encourages people to protect themselves against mental illnesses like depression and anxiety will be of immense benefit. Mental ill health not only causes untold personal suffering and distress, but also affects people's relationships, ability to work, family life. It can lead to a range of physical health problems.

"Both the consultation and the final strategy must address the needs of those who experience disproportionately high levels of mental ill health including older people, those living in poverty and people from black and minority ethnic communities."

Many services are already in place, which aren't normally considered as mental health services, but which could help promote public mental health and wellbeing and prevent future problems. It is these types of services that New Horizons could help promote. Examples include:

* Mother and toddler groups

* School health initiatives that promote self-respect or better relationships.

* Older people's lunch clubs

* Community arts projects - there is evidence that improving the built environment is good for mental health and well-being.

* Reading initiatives which improve literacy, social skills and self-esteem. An example is the "Get into reading" project in the Northwest.

* Inner-city sports projects which promote team work, self-respect and physical health.