The first ever Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit, hosted by the Department of Health and Social Care, concluded yesterday on World Mental Health Day.

The two-day event involved politicians, mental health experts, people with lived experience and sector representatives from all over the world. Simon Blake, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, attended on behalf of the organisation, alongside MHFA Ambassador, Poppy Jaman, and MHFA Bangladesh lead Monira Rahman. 

MHFA England was also active in the in the build-up to the summit, supporting its social media campaign, #TheWorldNeeds. The global MHFA network engaged in supporting the campaign online and MHFA England participated in a 24-hour take-over of the initiative’s Instagram handle.

The summit aimed to place a spotlight on mental health at a global level, with the theme of ‘Equality for Mental Health in the 21st Century’. Its key aims were to: 

  • Bring together the world's political leaders, innovators, experts by experience, policy makers and civil society to share the most effective and innovative approaches to mental health and psychosocial disabilities.
  • Build momentum on global mental health issues such as early intervention, public health, research, tackling stigma, and promoting access to evidence-based services.
  • Agree a global declaration committing to political leadership on mental health.
  • Create a legacy, with future summits being held annually, driving global action.

Professor Tim Kendall, National Clinical Director, Mental Health, NHS England, summarised:

“We need to make sure that our approach to mental health, and equality, is first the 21st century, with its unique challenges and opportunities. 

“Care can no longer only take place in institutions, technological advances need to be understood, not just mitigated, and we need to think about asset-based approaches, not only looking to minimise the ‘deficits’ that people can experience.”

To reflect this the summit focused in particular on prevention and early intervention. One of its key workstreams, chaired by Poppy Jaman and CEO of Mind, Paul Farmer, focused on ways in which more could be done to create conditions that enable people living with, and recovering from, mental ill health to thrive.

The summit also saw the launch of a landmark report by the Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development. The review, compiled by 28 global experts, highlights that costs associated with mental ill health could rise to £12tn by 2030 and warns of a “collective failure to respond this global health crisis”.

In response to this, the Commission has proposed an expansion of the global agenda from a focus on reducing the treatment gap to improving the mental health of whole populations. It has emphasised reducing the global burden of mental ill health by addressing gaps in prevention and quality of care and outlined a blueprint for action to promote mental wellbeing, prevent mental health issues, and support recovery.

The summit closed with a call for ministers around the world to commit to a global declaration on equity between mental and physical health. 

Commenting on the declaration, Simon Blake, CEO, Mental Health First Aid England said:

“We welcome the global declaration committing to parity of esteem between mental and physical health. These words on the page must now translate into concrete action for change.

“Vaccination, First Aid and medicine are commonplace for prevention, early intervention and treatment when it comes to our physical health. Sadly the equivalent cannot be said for mental health. 

“Mental Health First Aid England is proud to be part of a global community of 25 nations working to put mental and physical first aid on an equal footing. Together we have trained nearly 3 million people in Mental Health First Aid, giving them the knowledge and the skills to better support their own and others’ wellbeing and to signpost to further support if someone is struggling with their mental. We believe in a future where First Aid includes both mental and physical health. We look forward to working with colleagues around the world to make this a reality.”

Following the summit, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, pledged to put £30m into global mental health research through UK’s National Institute of Health Research. Other measures announced by the Government on World Mental Health Day included the appointment of the UK’s first Minister for Suicide Prevention and a funding pledge to help the Samaritans meet around 10% of its helpline’s running costs for the next four years.

The full report of the Lancet Commission can be found on their website.