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£2.5 million to be spent to address mental health in Suffolk after Covid pandemic as countywide survey planned



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Plans for a countywide survey of mental health have been voiced as part of public health efforts to form a 10-year strategy to address wellbeing.

Suffolk's Health and Wellbeing Board has agreed to allocate £2.5 million of the Covid-19 Outbreak Management Fund to address public mental health, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday the board agreed to explore options for a Suffolk-wide survey to establish a baseline of mental health needs in the county.

Plans for a countywide survey of mental health have been voiced as part of public health efforts to form a 10-year strategy to address wellbeing. Picture: iStock
Plans for a countywide survey of mental health have been voiced as part of public health efforts to form a 10-year strategy to address wellbeing. Picture: iStock

That will then be used to inform a 10-year plan to help support people across the county.

While it is too early for any measures to be outlined, it could include free training for employers to support the wellbeing of their employees and those in deprived communities, the board heard.

Suffolk's director of public health, Stuart Keeble, said: "When we talk about mental health we jump straight to our mental health services at the Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust, and the transformation around the community mental health services.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: Suffolk County Council
Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk Picture: Suffolk County Council

"Actually, we need to be focusing with the preventative lens as well, and recognise that if we are going to have an impact and help to reduce the impact on those wider services, and for our residents to have good mental wellbeing we need to look at the whole spectrum."

He added: "It's about how we can maintain and help people to have good mental health and wellbeing, but this isn't necessarily about an individual prescription or treatment.

"It is also about what actions we can take at a community level, and organisational level, to help people cope with life's ups and downs."

As part of the plans, a strategy group is to be pulled together which will lead on developing the plan, while future funding options will also be explored.

It comes as this year's annual public health report focuses on mental health in communities.

Martin Seymour, interim deputy director of public health, said that alongside the funding a shift in thinking was needed to support mental health across communities.

"The work must act as a catalyst to increase that collective understanding," he said.

"That is important in building longer term sustainability and cultural change which normalises this work around improving population mental health and wellbeing."

He added: "Our next steps will be to rapidly explore the options for undertaking a Suffolk-wide survey of public mental health to establish that wellbeing baseline, to use that baseline data then and other local information to develop a systematic plan of where investment in the protected factors of public mental health can be most effectively used."

To read the public health report, visit: www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/jsna/annual-public-health-report