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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Public Mental Health, Volume 13, Issue 3
In the six years since I became Editor of this Journal, it has given me great pleasure to see a more and more International authorship, whose research generates a Global reach. This issue contains studies from India, USA and a WHO projects. Secondary research by the sole UK author (Wilson, from Glasgow) has opened my eyes to "the African Gap" in mental health services. Mobilising new "networks" to bring evidence to policy making was a key theme of the Centre for Science and Policy conference this April, beginning with the keynote address on "Innovative policy making" by the Richard Heaton from the UK Cabinet Office. Public Health networks often arise from grass-roots initiatives such as almamata.org.uk, the "Global Health Graduates Network". That network aims to equip tomorrow's global health leaders "so that they realise lasting change" (Brown et al., 2014).
Here in the UK, elections to the European Parliament and to local councils have just finished. Xenophobic parties have done better than in any previous year, especially those parties openly hostile to immigrants. Xenophobia at the national level leads to many adverse psychosocial consequences (American Psychiatric Association, 2010). Social conflict, expressed in pervasive violence and insecurity, is seen by the WHO as a major contributor to the world-wide burden of "negative mental health outcomes" (Mack Center on Mental Health & Social Conflict, 2014). Conflict does not have to be as overt as warfare to undermine health: frequent conflict in any type of social relationship increases the risk of mortality in adults two to three times (Lund et al., 2014). Children are especially vulnerable to experiences of hostility, for example early exposure to verbal abuse undermines many aspects of their later health (Kmietowicz, 2014). Prejudices can have subtle health effects on our communities. For example, individual white Americans "high in anti-black prejudice" are much more likely to oppose health care reforms if told these came from President Obama than if told they came from ex-President Clinton (Knowles et al., 2010).
The good news is that people can recover from xenophobia. Increased informal, personal contact between members of different ethnic groups increases trust and reduces perceptions of threat, within groups and right across neighbourhoods (Schmid et al., 2014). The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace began as a grass-roots response to one IRA bombing, but now works with casualties, survivors and bereaved families after many types of conflict. In April I attended their inspiring conference on Humanitarian Assistance in Critical Incidents, including several people affected by the "07/07" London terrorism, and was deeply impressed by their progress towards empowerment and positive survival (STEPS, 2009). The children who are nurtured by Kids Company (Batmanghelidjh, 2014) have experienced insecure and violent environments, for example 50 per cent had witnessed shootings and stabbings in the last year. Batmanghelidjh appeals for Public Health professionals to deliver positive emotional contact in compassionate environments that "create more resilience" in children.
Professionally, I have been concerned with the population of school children who experience very bleak home environments (Caan, 2011) and then have poor life chances as adults, unless we take creative, Public Health steps. About a fifth of 15-year olds in England say they self-harm, but their isolation is well captured by Bacino (2014): "she wasn't aware of anyone else doing it. She never confided in her mum, but finally a teacher noticed". At Public Health England, Viv Bennett (2014) the lead for school health has become a powerful advocate for why listening to children and young people makes for good public health. Thanks to a recent report on arts, health and well-being, I learned of a UNESCO initiative to help Syrian refugee children integrate within Lebanese schools, using traditional shadow puppets. This illustrates how, "social inclusion through the arts is being considered to help population groups who are marginalized, disenfranchised or otherwise excluded due to racial, ethnic, religious, cultural or gender issues" (Royal Society for Public Health, 2013). Findings from 40 years' of research were summarised by Haslam (2014):
"the power of groups is unlocked by working with social identities not across or against them".
In this issue, Benjamin discusses a creative group for artists and its place in the Recovery journey. A daunting global challenge is to reduce the negative impact of stigma, around any mental illness. The Coming Out Proud peer-led, group intervention to reduce stigma for adults with mental illness in Switzerland found "this exchange helped many participants realise that they were not alone in their struggle with stigma and disclosure" (Rusch et al., 2014).
We still have a long way to go in promoting social inclusion that would allow every member of a community to flourish! However, a distant vision of what might someday be achieved came to me at the CentreForum think tank on May Day, in this policy round table:
investing in mental well-being and mental capital in communities.
Do you qualify for the award of I'MHOTS, (International, mental healing open to sharing)?
American Psychiatric Association (2010), Xenophobia, Immigration, and Mental Health, APA Resource Document, Arlington, VA
Bacino, L. (2014), "Shock figures show extent of self-harm in teenagers", The Guardian, Society, 21 May, p. 34
Batmanghelidjh, C. (2014), "Futility is our biggest enemy", Public Health Today, May, pp. 4-5
Bennett, V. (2014), "'Nothing about us without us': why listening to children and young people makes for good public health", Blog, 8 May, available at: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/ (accessed 9 May 2014)
Brown, C.S., Aldridge, K., Faso, S., Kirwan, D., Lewis, G., Malik, A., McConnochie, M., Nepali, G., Shortall, C., Traianou, A. and Foster, M. (2014), "Adding the doctor's voice to the global health agenda", Lancet, Vol. 383 No. 9931, pp. 1801-2
Caan, W. (2011), "How family friendly is the UK?", BMJ, Vol. 343 No. 7819, pp. 331-2
Haslam, S.A. (2014), "Making good theory practical: five lessons for an applied social identity approach to challenges of organizational, health, and clinical psychology", British Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 53 No. 1, pp. 1-20
Kmietowicz, Z. (2014), "Bad experiences in early childhood can lead to 'health harming life course', study shows", BMJ, available at: www.bmj.com (accessed 26 May 2014)
Knowles, E.D., Lowery, B.S. and Schaumberg, R.L. (2010), "Racial prejudice predicts opposition to Obama and his health care reform plan", Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 46 No. 2, pp. 420-3
Lund, R., Christensen, U., Nilsson, C.J., Kriegbaum, M. and Rod, N.H. (2014), "Stressful social relations and mortality: a prospective cohort study", Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, available at: http://jech.bmj.com (accessed 9 May 2014)
Mack Center on Mental Health & Social Conflict (2014), Mental Health and Social Conflict, University of California, Berkeley, CA
Royal Society for Public Health (2013), Arts, Health and Wellbeing Beyond the Millenium: How Far Have We Come and Where Do We Want To Go?, RSPH and Philipp Family Foundation, London
Rusch, N, Abbruzzese, E., Hagedorn, E., Hartenhauer, D., Kaufmann, I., Curschellas, J., Ventling, S., Zuaboni, G., Bridler, R., Olschewski, M., Kawohl, W., Rossler, W., Kleim, B. and Corrigan, P.W. (2014), "Efficacy of coming out proud to reduce stigma's impact among people with mental illness: pilot randomised controlled trial", British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 204 No. 5, pp. 391-7
Schmid, K., Al Ramiah, A. and Hewstone, M. (2014), "Neighborhood ethnic diversity and trust: the role of intergroup contact and perceived threat", Psychological Science, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 655-74
Steps Towards Empowerment and Positive Survival (STEPS) (2009), Life after Trauma, Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, Warrington, FL, available at: www.foundation4peace.org/resources/STEPSBooklet.pdf