National mental health policy 2008

2.2 Mental health promotion

Page last updated: 2009

Mental health promotion activities will support destigmatisation and assist Australians to become emotionally resilient, cope with negative experiences and participate in their communities.
Mental health promotion aims to maximise the ability of children, youth, adults and older people to realise their potential, cope with normal stresses of life, and participate meaningfully in their communities. It also seeks to increase awareness and understanding of mental health problems and mental illness, reduce stigma and discrimination, and encourage help-seeking behaviour where this is needed.

At an individual level, mental health promotion focuses on increasing emotional resilience and reducing vulnerability to mental health problems through the development of personal skills and self esteem which lead to an increased capacity to cope with life transitions and stresses. At a community level, it seeks to build healthy environments (e.g. schools, workplaces), and to foster inclusive and supportive social networks. At a structural level it is concerned with ensuring that public policies address mental health and well-being by, for example, promoting equity and inclusion and reducing discrimination through responsible media commentary.

Successful mental health promotion ideally combines an approach that involves many different government agencies and community organisations to deliver coordinated programs at the individual, community and system levels. Much of the effort in mental health promotion needs to occur beyond the healthcare system, in sectors that impact on the daily lives of individuals and communities to support the development of resilience and maintenance of mental well being. These include housing, education, employment, welfare and justice. In the health sector, mental health promotion should be incorporated into the activities of general health promotion units. Mental health services should also adopt a recovery-oriented approach and deliver services in a respectful and non-judgemental manner.

Mainstream mental health promotion activities have received considerable attention in recent times, with, for example, destigmatisation campaigns being targeted at whole communities. These efforts are important and should be consolidated, expanded and complemented by promotional activities that target specific population groups.