Approach to mental health improvement


Mental Health Improvement can be achieved​​ through a variety of approaches:

Strengthening individuals

Mental health improvement, from a life-course perspective, means considering stages from preconception through to childhood, adolescence, adulthood and later life.

Risk and protective factors influence the mental health of individuals and population groups. Risk factors increase the likelihood that mental health problems will develop; protective factors enhance and protect mental wellbeing and reduce the likelihood that a mental health problem will develop. 

We have a responsibility to promote and protect our own mental wellbeing, and increasing evidence suggests (activities over which we have control) are important drivers for mental wellbeing.

Empowerment is an essential underpinning principle of mental health improvement. It enabled individuals and communities to increase control over and improve their health and environment, and to acquire skills necessary to make mentally healthy choices.

Strengthening families

A Mental Health Strategy for Scotland ​[external site], as well as the ​National Parenting Strategy [external site]​​​ emphasises the importance of the family and the home environment and the impact they can have on mental health. Particular circumstances leading to mental wellbeing are:

  • early attachment and bonding
  • living in a nurturing, caring, safe and secure environment with supporting family relationships.

Other contributing factors include economic stability, employment, and a sense of belonging within the community. It is also essential to have access to opportunities that enhance mental wellbeing and to services providing support for mental health problems. Strengthening communities Mentally healthy communities can be achieved by:

  • Increasing social support.
  • Inclusion and participation.
  • Improving community safety and neighbourhood environments.
  • Promoting childcare.
  • Supporting self help networks.
  • Developing health and social services which support mental health improvement.
  • Improving mental health within schools and workplaces.
  • Strengthening democracy and community driven action.

Partnership approach

Mental health improvement can only be delivered through working together. There is no one solution to achieving outcomes in mental health improvement and no single sector, agency or programme can deliver this agenda on its own.

Mental Health Improvement is one element of Single Outcome Agreements ​[external site] and delivered through community planning partnerships, community health partnerships, and other organisational structures. All of these organisations help deliver mental health improvement at local and national level.

A wide range of sectors have a responsibility to deliver for mental health improvement including environment and urban planning, social welfare, NHS, education, criminal justice, nutrition, culture, transport, and human rights protection.

Partnerships should take action to establish an understanding of the issues regarding mental health across their local communities. They should do this by identifying priority trends and jointly planning to address issues, and through shared delivery, working with the community to improve their mental wellbeing.

Partnerships with the public are essential. Community members should participate fully with these partnerships in planning, delivery and evaluation.

Reducing structural barriers

 Reducing structural barriers to mental health improvement requires initiatives to reduce discrimination and inequalities; to reduce poverty and promote access to education; and to support meaningful employment, housing and services.

This can be achieved via:

  • Building mentally healthy public policy: mental health improvement goes beyond health care and is relevant to a range of policy agendas, including housing, transport, justice and education.
  • Creating safe, supportive environments for mental health improvement: this includes supporting access to the natural environment and better design of the physical environment.
  • Reorientation of services: services that go across public and private sectors to support the mental health improvement needs of the population.​