Director of Public Health Annual Report 2023: Mental Health Matters

mental health matters

2. Introduction

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 longer life expectancy.

People in Buckinghamshire generally enjoy higher levels of good mental health and wellbeing compared with the England average. However, many of us will experience periods of poor mental health during our life. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted this with many people struggling to adapt to the sudden changes this brought, while the recent rises in the cost of living have created pressures that are affecting many people’s mental health.

While not all mental health conditions and disorders can be prevented, there are many things we can do to improve and protect our own mental health. There are also actions that families, communities, schools and organisations can take to support the mental health of those who live, learn and work in Buckinghamshire. This is the focus of my annual report this year.

The report summarises the things that can promote and protect mental health and examines the factors that can have a negative effect on our mental health. It also highlights who in Buckinghamshire is more likely to be vulnerable to poor mental health. To align with our Health and Wellbeing Strategy, this research is presented for each of the three key life stages – Start Well, Live Well and Age Well.

In the final section, I make a number of recommendations regarding actions that individuals, communities, schools, Buckinghamshire Council, the local NHS, employers and voluntary sector organisations can take to promote good mental health.

In taking this public health approach, it is important to acknowledge that a proportion of people in our area will continue to experience poor mental health, ranging from anxiety to severe mental illness. People with poorer mental health need support and treatment. This is an important topic which would require a long and detailed report in its own right and is not addressed here. Many people with a mental health condition enjoy a good quality of life and many of the preventive actions in my report may also support their mental health in addition to formal treatment.

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