A briefing from the British Medical Association (BMA) has highlighted that doctors feel a ‘life-course’ approach, where preventative support is continuously available from childhood through to later life, must be adopted to improve public mental health.

Doctors are concerned about the scale of the mental health crisis in the UK and believe that a ‘comprehensive public health approach’ and much greater investment in local public health services are required to prevent demand for support increasing to an unsustainable level.

Evidence from the report found that many factors that influence mental health lie outside of doctors’ influence, and this is where most attention is needed. For example, the mental health of children and young people can be affected by exam stress, low academic attainment, bullying, and adverse childhood experiences such as emotional or physical abuse, neglect, or growing up in poverty.

Key areas for action were outlined:

  • A ‘life-course’ approach to improving public mental health is required, ensuring support for people’s mental health during childhood, education, employment and into later life. 
  • Much greater investment is required in local public mental health services. Funding constraints are currently undermining the ability of local areas to invest in support services designed to prevent people becoming mentally unwell. 
  • Action is required on these social determinants of mental health, with a ‘health in all policies’ approach to policymaking – this must include specific consideration of the impact of all new policy changes on mental health.

Caroline Hounsell, Director of Communities, MHFA England, commented:

“Mental ill health can be experienced at any point in someone’s life, so we are encouraged that UK doctors feel this must be reflected with a continuous approach to mental health services.

"At Mental Health First Aid England we are working towards embedding the principles of early intervention, prevention and self-care in schools, in universities, and in the workplace, so that first aid support is available at all stages of life.”  

In the same week, leaders from a coalition of organisations have signed an open letter to Downing Street which highlights the overwhelming evidence that youth support services are close to breaking point. Leaders from over 120 organisations, including Simon Blake, Chief Executive of MHFA England, signed the letter which calls on the Government to focus their spending commitments on children and young people. 

Led by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), the letter references the NHS prediction that less than a third of children with a diagnosable mental health issue will get access to the necessary treatment this year. The campaign is calling on families and anyone who works with young people to sign a public petition to the Government and show their support on social media using the hashtag #ChildrenAtTheHeart.

The full briefing from the BMA can be read on their website.

More on the #ChildrenAtTheHeart campaign can be found here.