There’s been a lot about mental health recently from our politicians of all persuasions. I think it’s really encouraging that these speeches and debates have started to happen. It may be just be talk at the moment and party conferences don’t mean definite change but regardless of your own personal views on politics and politicians, it’s still good to talk.
For so long, mental health has been seen as the poor relation of physical health and relegated to the back as being less important than physical well-being. Some of you will be familiar with terms such as ‘Cinderella’ services bandied about over the years. To build on this cliché, perhaps it is time for Cinderella to get to go the ball but more importantly have the opportunity to live happily ever after (with or without the handsome or not so handsome prince or princess).
So how does good mental health help us live happily ever after? The WHO define this as not just the absence of ill-health but rather: ‘Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’ (www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/). While this tells us what it should look like, it doesn’t tell us how to get there. The pathway to good mental health is where psychological thinking and approaches have a lot to offer. There is no one route to good mental health and few people have not experienced adversity in their lives that has challenged their coping abilities. What we are able to offer to our service users/patients is a tailored approach to help them find their own road map to get to where they want to go. What if this could be offered not just to people who are able to find their way into our services? How could psychological approaches and interventions benefit the wider population? Colleagues in health psychology and also public health are developing interventions to focus on the wider population. Links between the wider population based approaches and clinical mental health services tend to be patchy if present at all. One of the areas the network is keen to develop is psychological thinking in all areas of health and social care and to link these areas to enable the sharing of good practice and the promotion of psychological thinking.
So how does this relate to me may be the question? As a member of the psychological professions, how do you maintain and develop good mental health for yourself and the people in your life? What can you contribute to psychological thinking informally as well as part of your formal role? How could the network help you contribute to this and promote good practice? We’d love to hear your ideas.