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Tackling the causes: Promoting public mental health and investing in prevention

Doctors are concerned about the scale of mental health problems in the UK, and that demand for mental health care is increasing faster than resources to look after people with mental health needs.

Yet, many of the factors that influence people’s mental health lie outside of doctors’ day-to-day clinical influence, and include the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.

Supporting improvements in mental health therefore requires a comprehensive public health approach, that helps prevent the development of future mental health problems; reduces stigma around mental illness and supports recovery from mental health problems or prevents them from worsening.

This briefing highlights the importance of comprehensive action on the social determinants of mental health, investigates what is being invested in public mental health across the UK, and makes recommendations for improving public mental health.

Download the briefing


Key areas for action

  • The BMA supports a 'health in all policies' approach – making it a mandatory requirement for all government departments to undertake an assessment of the impact of all new policies and policy changes on health. This must include specific commitments to consider the impact of policy changes on mental health.

  • Funding constraints are currently undermining the ability of local areas to invest in services designed to prevent people becoming mentally unwell. Much greater investment is required in local public health services aimed at promoting mental health, to ensure they are meeting the needs the populations they serve. 

  • A life-course approach to improving public mental health is required, ensuring support for people’s mental health at key stages throughout their lives including childhood, education, employment and into later life.