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Taking the Challenge
One of the outcomes of the Government’s mental health strategy has been a challenge to local authorities to appoint an elected member as ‘mental health champion’ across the council. The challenge has been in place for more than six months, and as I write 26 councils have so far appointed a champion. The idea of the challenge is that local authorities respond to a ten-point action plan around promoting mental health and well-being in their area. If local authorities adopt the action plan they will get support in the way of information and advice from a range of national mental health charities.
Role of the champions
The member champions don’t have to carry any particular office or leadership role in the council, just to take a keen interest in mental health issues and raise awareness about those issues. In addition to the idea of a mental health champion, the challenge includes identifying a lead officer (a senior employee of the council) to link with colleagues on the council to ensure policies are geared towards promoting positive mental health. The campaign encourages local authorities to get involved in the debate about mental health, perhaps by arranging training for staff and councillors and consulting with mental health user and carer groups about the council’s strategy.
What are local authority champions doing? Here are some examples:
- Putting pressure on local commissioners to support services with a community element
- Supporting local campaigns to save mental health services
- Initiating debate about mental health issues as a way of reducing stigma
The balance sheet approach
Why is this important? Well mental health is not just about getting the best treatments and interventions for people with mental health problems. It’s an issue for the whole community. The mental health challenge invites councils to look at the risk factors in their area that might contribute to worsening mental health, such as poor physical health, insecure housing and debt problems. The challenge also invites councils to assess what protective factors are in place, such as community groups, voluntary support or church groups that can be sources of support and friendship for people with mental health problems.
The idea of drawing up a balance sheet of risk factors and protective factors in your area, or even your care home or with an individual Service User can be an excellent start point in promoting better mental health.
You can find out more about the challenge at: http://www.mentalhealthchallenge.org.uk/the-challenge/. See if the local authority for your area has taken it up.
*All information is correct at the time of publishing