Health and Wellbeing

Public Health Annual Report focus on mental health receives cross party support

family with two children walking through some woods along a pathHealth and wellbeing in Devon

Posted on: 16 May 2019

A cross-party endorsement was given to the Annual Public Health Report 2018/19 at Devon County Council’ Cabinet meeting.

Each yearly report covers the general health of the population of Devon, highlighting factors such as obesity, smoking, alcohol, drug use, wealth and poverty, homelessness, employment rates and other key contributory factors that relate to the local population’s health.

This year’s public health annual report, which is written by Devon’s Director of Health, Professor Virginia Pearson, takes as its theme the mental health and wellbeing of the population.

One in four adults and at least one in ten children experience mental health problems to some degree in any year, and mental ill-health is a major cost to society, particularly the criminal justice system, and health and care services.

In her report, Professor Pearson says:

“Without mental health there is no health, and it is increasingly recognised that we should be giving the same priority to mental health as physical health in terms of prevention, early intervention, treatment and rehabilitation. Poor mental health carries an economic and social cost of over a hundred billion pounds each year in England.

“Devon’s population compares well nationally and to similar areas when looking at indicators of physical health but compares much less favourably when we consider measures of mental health. General indicators of wellbeing and happiness seem really good, but like overall life expectancy in Devon, can mask the experience of those whose mental health outcomes are poor. Inequality exists in just the same way for mental health as for physical health, with the added disadvantage that mental illness and physical illness often co-exist, leading to significantly worse outcomes.”

The report suggests an approach that starts with the best chance of lifelong mental health is through the promotion and active support of breastfeeding, and a loving family environment during the early years of a child’s life.

The report makes a number of recommendations to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the population of Devon, all of which received cross party support, which included promotion of mental health and wellbeing in schools, tackling mental health associated with poverty and poor housing, and recognising and supporting carers’ mental health.*

Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member with responsibility for public health, said:

“Mental health is the focus of this year’s Annual Public Health report, and rightly so.

“It is very timely that this report has been discussed by our Cabinet during mental health awareness week, and I am really pleased that it has received endorsement across parties.

“Mental health cuts across all aspects of our services and can present in many ways. This report looks in detail at some of the underlying reasons for poor mental health, from post-natal and children’s mental health through to issues like homelessness and unemployment, and trauma, such as that experienced by our armed forces veterans.

“We don’t have all the answers, but what we do welcome is the increasing willingness to talk about mental health – that is a positive start in what will be a continuing challenge for us all.

“I want to thank Professor Pearson for a really insightful and interesting report, and the historical perspective of mental health shows that despite significant progress being made, we still have more to do to tackle some of the inequalities that exist around mental health.”

Cllr Rob Hannaford, Labour Group leader said:

“This is an excellent report. There are a lot of positives in this report. Mental health is one of the biggest, if not the biggest issue, we have at the moment.”

Cllr Alan Connett

Cllr Alan Connett, Liberal Democrat Group leader, said:

“We welcome the focus on mental health this year. We have come on leaps and bounds in acknowledging it. There are many challenges facing us and I welcome this report.”

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