Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 9 December 2014



Caan, W. (2014), "Editorial", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 13 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMH-09-2014-0036



Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Public Mental Health, Volume 13, Issue 4

Global from the grass roots can be good. I joined in the London part of “The People's Climate March” in cities around the world, to coincide with a United Nations event (Goldenberg et al., 2014). A young person marching on my left was called Hope: very appropriate, on that day. A changing and unpredictable climate across the globe presents huge challenges for the mental health of whole populations (Caan, 2014). It is a challenge for policy makers or other thought leaders to contemplate mental health needs at the population level, but a recent “rallying cry” by Boris Johnson (Mayor of London, 2014) sets an example:

  • Above all, it is time to talk to Londoners about mental health – with our loved ones and colleagues, professionally and in public. It is time we accepted that mental ill health is an issue for everyone.

The voluntary and community sector has a creative role in advocating for improved mental health. The JPMH is closely allied with the Mental Health Foundation, which recently issued a Manifesto for Better Mental Health in England advocating that:

No one should be denied access to mental health care. For example, in England and Wales this month the Ministry of Justice has begun work developing a new network of specialist mental health centres within prisons.

The global human rights of people with a mental illness form an overarching theme for all five papers in this issue of JPMH. From its beginning, this Journal has stood out against discrimination and victimization. Access to appropriate and acceptable interventions is a closely related issue, and this applies whatever the nationality or ethnic group involved. Thornicroft and Patel (2014) argue that the “massive treatment gap” for people with mental illness worldwide requires the United Nations to include “mental health” among its new sustainable development goals. Over a third of the World's population lives in just two countries. Lamichhane (2014), a public health leader in India writes:

  • What little resources are allocated to addressing mental illness are strictly focused on medical treatment of patients, not their right to live with dignity as equal members of society.

Medicalized approaches will not suffice for China either, with a population around 1.4 billion and only 20,000 psychiatrists. Last year for the first time China introduced legislation around mental health, recognizing wider public needs for care (Branigan, 2014).

In high-income countries, efforts to improve population mental health have often been undermined by widening health inequalities (Dorling, 2014). In London, the UCL Institute of Health Equity (2014) has just published its “lessons” for “tackling health inequalities”. Two key recommendations are to promote accountability for equity and to aim for long-term sustainability. If public health professionals are to build sustainability, we need to “tell the story” in order to build political will and involvement across the community!

Public Health England (2014) just published their first Global Health Strategy, including the priority to build “public health capacity” in low- and middle-income countries. In the 26 pages of this first Strategy, the phrase “mental health” gets only one mention, which is not subsequently linked to any Global action. This is understandable today when PHE is preoccupied with responding to outbreaks of the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) and the Ebola virus. However, for the next version of their Global Health Strategy I sent PHE the WHO's global report on the Social Determinants of Mental Health (Allen et al., 2014) just to start them thinking about public mental health.

Due process

Judges jail you for “contempt”

But for people with poor mental health

Contempt still sneers

And bites.

Equal healthcare is too rare:

Every person who needs your support

Is due respect

And rights.

Woody Caan


Allen, J., Balfour, R., Bell, R. and Marmot, M. (2014), Social Determinants of Mental Health, WHO, Geneva

Branigan, T. (2014), “China turns to therapy to cope with the boom”, The Guardian, International, 4 September, p. 23

Caan, W. (2014), “Chekhov's corner”, Journal of Public Health, Vol 36 No. 1, p. 1

Dorling, D. (2014), “The lion's share: how the super rich got richer”, The Guardian, Vol. 2, 16 September, pp. 6-9

Goldenberg, S., Carrington, D., Milman, O. and Mathiesen, K. (2014), “Hundreds of thousands in climate protest. Rallies from Manhattan to Melbourne call for action on global warming on eve of UN leaders’ summit”, The Guardian, 22 September, p. 3

Lamichhane, J. (2014), “Strengthening civil and political rights of people with mental illness”, Lancet Psychiatry, Vol. 1 No. 3, p. 173

Mayor of London (2014), London Mental Health. The Invisible Costs of Mental Ill Health, Greater London Authority, London

Public Health England (2014), Global Health Strategy 2014 to 2019, PHE, London

Thornicroft, G. and Patel, V. (2014), “Including mental health among the new sustainable development goals”, BMJ, Vol. 349 No. 7972, p. 5

UCL Institute of Health Equity (2014), “Lessons from experience”, Health Equity Briefing, Vol. 10, September, pp. 1-14

Related articles