Director of Public Health Annual Report 2023: Mental Health Matters

mental health matters

1. Executive summary

Mental health is as important as physical health for our health and wellbeing. It underpins our ability to build strong relationships, to do well at school or in our jobs, and shapes how we interact with the world around us. Good mental health often leads to better physical health as well as a longer life expectancy.

People in Buckinghamshire generally enjoy higher levels of good mental health and wellbeing compared with the England average. However, good mental health is not experienced by everyone and many of us will experience periods of poor mental health during our life. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to improve and protect our own mental health. There are also actions that schools and organisations can take to support the mental health of those who live, learn and work in Buckinghamshire.

These preventative actions are the focus of my annual report this year. The report does not consider the different types of mental health conditions and does not cover treatment and support for mental illness. These are important subjects that would require a long and detailed report in their own right. Many people with a mental health condition enjoy a good quality of life and many of the preventative actions in my annual report may support them, in addition to formal treatment.

Promoting mental health in the three key life stages – Start Well, Live Well and Age Well

Using formal research and local data, it is possible to identify the things that promote and protect our mental health and the factors that can have a negative impact. These are listed in the table below and considered in more detail in the main report. It is not surprising to find a strong overlap between the factors that are important to children and young people and those that are important in adulthood.

Factors that promote and protect the mental health of children Factors that promote and protect the mental health of adults
Support for the mental health of mothers during pregnancy
Mental health of fathers and a supportive family
Having support from friends
A positive school environment
Physical activity
Being around nature
Involvement with arts and music
Physical activity
Getting enough sleep
Having a good diet
Quitting smoking
Having a social network
Ongoing learning
Being around nature
Involvement with arts and music
Good quality work
Factors that can have a negative impact on the mental health of children Factors that can have a negative impact on the mental health of adults
Traumatic events in childhood
Living in poor quality homes and neighbourhoods
The internet and social media
Caring responsibilities (without support)
Drinking too much alcohol
Living in poor quality homes and neighbourhoods
Worrying about money
Unpaid caring responsibilities (without support)

The things that affect our mental health do not change as we grow older. However, two additional factors become important at the Age Well stage – the impact of retirement and increased risks of becoming socially isolated.

Who is most at risk of poor mental health?

While the factors listed above can affect everyone, some people in Buckinghamshire are more likely to be vulnerable to poor mental health.

National research has demonstrated a link between poverty and mental health and this is evident in Buckinghamshire. Data from before the pandemic found that people living in the most deprived fifth of Buckinghamshire were more than twice as likely to have an emergency admission for mental health or self-harm compared with those living in the least deprived fifth of the county.

Women in England are three times more likely than men to experience common mental health problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders. However, men have a much higher risk of dying by suicide.

People who belong to particular groups are also more likely to experience poorer mental health than others. This includes people with physical health conditions, people from some ethnic groups, people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, some people who are neurodiverse (see glossary), and those with caring responsibilities.

Promoting mental health in Buckinghamshire

While not all mental health conditions and disorders can be prevented, individuals can take steps to improve their own mental health by focusing on the protective factors listed in the tables above. The practical actions people can take are included in the main report alongside information about advice where people can seek support if they need it.


There is a lot that individuals can do to support their own mental health, actions are outlined in information accompanying this report. Schools and other organisations can also play an important role in promoting the mental health of everyone who lives and works in Buckinghamshire. This final section considers what schools, the Council, health, employers and voluntary sector organisations can do to provide proactive support to promote good mental health.

Dr Jane O’Grady
Director of Public Health and Community Safety
Buckinghamshire Council

View a PDF version of the Executive Summary PDF, 606KB.