Mental Health in Social Policies. Japing, K. & Montero, A. 2015.
Mental Health in Social Policies [pdf]Paper  Mental Health in Social Policies [pdf]Website  abstract   bibtex   
What is mental health? Mental health is not just the absence of illness. Mental health is a state of wellbeing, in which every individual realises their potential, can cope with stress, can work productively, and is able to contribute to their community. Mental health requires cognitive, emotional, and social skills, which develop when we provide people with a sense of identity and self-respect, meaning in life, belonging, safety, and social support. Why is it important to integrate mental health in social policy? Social policies impact on mental health by influencing people's sense of security, their wellbeing and future opportunities, and a safety net. Therefore, social policy decisions can improve or harm people's mental health. However, this connection has not yet been recognised widely enough and needs greater public awareness. What are the benefits of incorporating mental health in social policies? Having mental health incorporated in social policies can improve population's mental health and reduce the negative effects of welfare dependence. From a whole-society perspective, the integration of mental health in social policy can reduce social inequalities as well as poverty, and increase people's psycho-emotional resilience and achieve associated positive outcomes such as improved individual wellbeing, longevity, healthy behaviour, educational achievement, workplace performance, psycho-emotional resilience, or pro-social behaviour. Mental health professionals, who are crucial in delivering general and emergency support, come mostly from social work. For instance, in the UK 96% of Approved Mental Health Professionals are social workers, who are employed and trained mainly by local authorities. Recommendations  Mental health should be a key element of any needs assessment undertaken by social services.  Social service professionals should implement services in a person-centred approach. People's skills, expectations, and needs should be reflected in individualised action plans, so that users commit to jointly agreed measures like a particular treatment or training, and develop full ownership of their lives.  In the development of social policies, mental health should be more prominently featured in relevant legislation, strategies, and plans. For instance, plans may be based on objectives and tools like improving wellbeing and mental health, mental wellbeing impact assessment, and guidelines for users' involvement in policy and practice development.  Mental health capacity in the social workforce needs to be built up. Social workers and case managers should receive training to detect mental health problems early, to refer to other services, and involve users in services.  Community-based mental health services need to be supported by social policy to offer alternatives to

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