The Public Mental Health (PMH) research programme aims to improve the mental health of people across England by promoting mental health and well-being as well as preventing mental illness.
The PMH programme was divided into two phases.
Phase 1 focused both on identifying what influences people’s mental health, for example, connections to family and friends, or financial issues such as poverty or debt, and on identifying what is already known on approaches to improve mental health. This first phase involved reviewing the research already available and running workshops with members of the public, healthcare professionals, public health professionals, and policymakers to understand the most important influencing factors and the most important outcomes of a mentally healthy population.
There were 4 work packages (WP) in Phase 1:
- WP1: Developing a conceptual framework to highlight what influences public mental health
- WP2: Developing a set of outcome measures which allow us to measure changes in public mental health
- WP3: Looking into “what works” to support the mental health of children and young people in schools
- WP4: Looking into “what works” to support the mental health of adults, including those facing job loss, debt, or housing problems, older adults, and black and minority ethnic groups.
We used the results from Phase 1 to help plan Phase 2. This project is know as Phase 2, which focuses on evaluating promising approaches (activities, programmes, etc.) for mental health. This is important because, currently, not much is known about which interventions work best for promoting mental health or preventing mental illness.
This project is divided into two work packages:
- WP5 evaluates the promising interventions and key drivers of public mental health outcomes in adults that were identified in Phase 1. We will use a range of different approaches in order to investigate promising interventions and their impact on people’s mental health, for example by using different types of data collection and evaluating existing data in order to generate results within the timeframe of SPHR (e.g. by March 2022).
- WP6 focuses on children and young people and looks at the impact school culture has on student mental health. We will do this by:
- working in partnership with a mental health charity called ‘Off the Record’ (OTR) and with students and staff in secondary schools to plan and carry out changes to the school culture
- working with one school in-depth to understand how schools can respond more effectively to student substance use
- setting up a network of schools to explore ways in which we can collect data on school environment and student health behaviours and mental health outcomes and use those data to make positive changes in schools.
Our work will explore the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on how we can best address social and economic inequalities and related drivers of population mental health.
Across the whole programme, we are working with a team of peer researchers who are a team of people from different parts of England with varied identities and lived experiences of life challenges and mental health issues. The peer researchers have worked as part of the research team in all work packages and will be leading a project in Phase 2, which looks at how people experience inequality, such as poverty or discrimination, and how it affects their mental health.
This project also aims to understand the changes people would like to see for themselves and in their communities. The project was based on feedback gathered in the workshops in the first phase of the programme, in which participants said that inequality was one of the most important aspects influencing their mental health.