What is public mental health?

Public mental health is a population-based approach which seeks to improve the level and distribution of mental health and well-being in society.

It seeks to promote mental health and prevent the development and/or associated impact of mental disorders.

We include substance-use disorders, intellectual disabilities and neurodevelopmental disorders in our definition.

Public mental health:

  • focuses on the organisation and collective action of society, aiming to identify and address the full range of socioeconomic inequalities and determinants of poor mental and physical health (for example, poverty, deprivation and structural racism).
  • delivers interventions at the primary, secondary or tertiary level:
    • primary level interventions address risk factors to prevent mental disorder from arising, and to promote protective factors and resilience for mental wellbeing.
    • secondary prevention involves early intervention for mental disorder and poor mental wellbeing, to minimise impact.
    • tertiary level interventions are to prevent relapse and minimise disability for people with established mental disorder.
  • addresses the mental health implementation gap, aiming to increase coverage of and access to existing evidence-based interventions and services.
  • recognises intersectional approaches, including social, educational, health, economic and policy interventions.
  • involves communities, including people with mental disorders and lived experience, industry, policymakers, and the public, in the development and implementation of evidence-based interventions.
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