Mental health

Government should consider mental health impacts of every new policy, says charity

The government is being called on to put all its new policies through a mental health test and consider whether proposals will have a net positive impact on people.

The call comes from the charity, Centre for Mental Health, which has set out how policymakers should gather evidence on the impact of government action to mental health – a move the charity says would allow policies to be adjusted, which would lead to greater benefits and avoid harmful side effects.

“Every government policy affects our mental health, for good or ill,” explained the Centre for Mental Health’s CEO, Andy Bell.

“A mental health policy test is a simple and effective way of ensuring the greatest benefits and reducing risks.”

The charity argues that implementing its idea would not only boost people’s mental health and reduce mental illness, it would also improve policymaking in the long term.

The test would be for all new policies, whether it be housing, environment, benefits, or immigration.

The Centre for Mental Health specifically points out the recent proposals to change Personal Independence Payment as an example of a policy that could benefit from the test – i.e., a robust process could alert policymakers to the danger of reducing benefits and thus increasing financial strain on those already struggling mentally.

The test could help reduce NHS mental health waiting lists, improve employment prospects, and reduce poverty.

Saving money could also be a benefit. The NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network asked the Centre for Mental Health to look into the financial burden of mental ill health in England during 2022 – the overall cost was totalled at £300bn.

“We urge the Government and all political parties to commit to implementing a robust mental health policy test,” added Andy.

“Alongside a national mental health plan and a Mental Health Commissioner at the heart of government, the policy test could change the way policies get made and have a major and lasting impact on the lives of millions of people nationwide.”

The Policies for better mental health report comes during mental health awareness week.

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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