Portfolio of Hope

The current national strategy devised by Public Health England for promoting mental health and wellbeing (2020-2025) consists of the components set out in 2011s long-term strategy, the main one being ‘No Health Without Mental Health’, which aims to ensure that mental health is on parity with physical health. The strategy also aims to; highlight the importance of prevention as well as treatment, empower communities and individuals, personalise services, and, ultimately, increase accountability of service providers and government departments to contribute towards measurable improvements in the nation’s mental health. The latter point is achieved via the delivery of national marketing campaigns centered around the importance of maintaining good mental health.

One such campaign is that of ‘Every Mind Matters.’ Launched in 2019 with an updated version being launched again in November 2020 (at the height of the Pandemic), the campaign aims to raise greater awareness of issues that are important to public health.

At present, the biggest issue being addressed in the Every Mind Matters campaign is related to pandemic induced mental ill health, as statistics highlight that the mental health of nearly half of all adults in England has suffered as a direct result of the pandemic (Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.)

The campaign aims to reduce this statistic by empowering individuals to take responsibility for their own mental health and wellbeing in a way that works for them. One way it does this is by asking five simple questions, the answers influencing the creation of a ‘Mind Plan’ which offers practical and personalised tips (no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to mental health here!) Examples of what might be included on the personalised ‘Mind Plan’ include: staying physically healthy by exercising every day, getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, and reducing alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine consumption, as well as practicing mindfulness and meditation, and doing more ‘feel-good’ things, like trying a new hobby and/or volunteering.

Other ways in which the campaign empowers people to prioritise their mental health is through the offering of extensive advice, resources and practical tips from experts, all of which are accessible via the free Every Mind Matters Platform.

To promote the campaign to the greatest number of people, celebrity endorsement takes place, with the likes of Actor Stephen Fry, Musician Arlo Parks, and TV Chef Nadiya Hussain (to name just a few), using their ‘influencer’ status to share their experiences with their own mental health and wellbeing on social media, encouraging their ‘followers’ to do the same. This, (Celebrity Endorsement), serves to extend the campaigns reach, particularly to a younger demographic who, as OHID statistics show, were the worst affected by the pandemic in terms of the impact it had on their mental health (57% of 18-to-34-year-olds reported that their mental wellbeing was negatively impacted by the pandemic.)

Although the campaign has proven to be a success in reaching large volumes of people and spreading the importance of mental health to the nation, one critique has been highlighted by Eating Disorder Charity ‘Beat‘, who argue that some of the recommendations proposed (loose weight, eat healthier, exercise more) may be ‘triggering’ for eating disorders sufferers, causing them to experience immense anxiety. This is a particular concern when the pandemic has caused the volume of people struggling with eating disorders to rise exponentially. Therefore, by failing to be sensitive to the vulnerabilities and ‘triggers’ of what is unfortunately a growing number of people, the campaign might in fact unintentionally exacerbate the eating disorder ‘epidemic’ we have found ourselves in, with this having an adverse effect on achieving the campaign’s aims and objectives (to promote good mental health and wellbeing.)

Another critique of the campaign is that it is unlikely to effectively work as a ‘standalone’ service, particularly in individuals who have a severe mental health condition, such as depression, for example.

Designed to ‘complement’ other NHS services, such as talking therapy and medication, (if required), people who don’t access external support, viewing the campaign as a ‘replacement GP’, for example, will struggle to access the appropriate level of support which they need. This might in turn lead to people with pre-existing mental health conditions feeling an even greater sense of hopelessness if the tips provided in the campaign don’t work for them (which they are unlikely to if they are not accessing other support alongside the campaign.) To increase the likelihood of the campaign proving effective for the greatest proportion of people then, throughout it, the message of the campaign being a complimentary service and not a replacement one should be emphasised, with ways of accessing additional help and support also being clearly highlighted throughout the campaign to reinforce this important fact.

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