11 moments to remember/points to take away from the Global Mental Health Summit

Just 10 years ago, The Thrive Programme was a small mental health revolution with big ideas and even bigger potential. Now, with over 100 consultants and a rapidly growing army of successful, thriving clients, our position as a powerful, innovative and disruptive force in the mental health field has led us to a seat at the table at the worlds first ever Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit in London this week, and we weren’t going to miss a minute of it…

The Summit, held on 9th and 10th October just moments from Westminster in the heart of London, was organised and held by the UK Government’s Department of Health and Social Care. It drew in ministerial delegations from (we are told) over 60 countries, alongside over 400 attendees spanning academic research and universities, charities, the NHS and Public Health England, Quangos and NGOs, private mental health consultants and companies, business leaders, psychologists and psychiatrists, local service providers and trusts, global organisations (the World Health Organisation, World Bank, OECD, UN etc.) campaigners, journalists and writers, public figures (including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!), government officials, and those with lived experience. It brought together big names and big voices in the mental health sector, all with a desire to see the shocking state of mental health start to change.

There was just too much information to write a detailed summary that didn’t turn into a novel, so instead we have written 11 summary points that really stuck with us from the conference to share with you all, and 3 final calls to action for everyone reading this…

  1. Social media was a big topic. From the impact on children and young people’s mental health, to self-image, loneliness, and the increasing hours spent online, this was a topic that came up time and time again, and big tech companies including Google talked about their new focus on Wellbeing (launched at their 2018 annual conference), and how they are starting to discuss new ways to tackle this growing problem


  1. There are some fantastic emerging examples of a new way of looking at Mental Health, from local community initiatives to huge national and international projects. However in many societies like India there are still huge cultural barriers to talking about Mental Health, with one bi-polar sufferer from India telling her story of family shame and cover-ups in her battle to access treatment, and how this is a huge contributor to the fact that India’s biggest killer of young people is now suicide (South Korea also has huge suicide rates to contend with). This is not just a third world issue – the biggest youth killer for the US is opiate use, another mental health issue being brushed under a national carpet…


  1. The WAY we talk about mental health is becoming more important than just simply ‘opening up’. One leader of a state-wide mental wellbeing project (based in Philadelphia, USA) run by the now-President of the American Psychological Association, discussed the hugely positive effects (especially on men) they saw by reframing discussions away from ‘coping with mental illness’ and instead to ‘building mental strength and wellbeing’, showing the impact of positive debates on engagement and results


  1. People don’t always find or seek out mental health services. Sometimes, services need to go out and find THEM, where they are. The Premier League discussed their increasing role as a ‘gateway’ to men accessing mental health support, because whatever might be affecting men in their lives they never miss their club games, and local clubs are starting to use that access to start talking male mental health. Comic Relief also discussed the work they are doing on community outreach to engage more people in the Mental Health debate in their own communities


  1. It’s not enough to pledge more money, even though £30m extra UK Mental Health funding (alongside the appointment of a new ‘Suicide Minister’) was announced at the Summit by the Secretary of State for Health. The Chief Executive of NHS England discussed the growing training and skills gap in the Mental Health sector, and how without more boots on the ground, no amount of money will physically be able to expand Mental Health services, decrease waiting times, and improve treatment outcomes…


  1. The impact of Mental Health on physical health is finally being acknowledged and prioritised. The World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted that for too long mental health has lived in the shadows of physical health with many countries still spending less than 1% of their healthcare budgets on Mental Health, and discussed how ‘health’ is not just the absence of disease, but about good mental, social and physical wellbeing combined, and the WHO’s new focus on ‘Prevention’. The OECD also discussed how mental health treatments were still revolving around a dated ‘physical health’ medical approach of poking and prodding people like pieces of meat to try and see what’s wrong, and two Health Ministers (UK and Norway) highlighted the growing links between physical illness and/or decreased life expectancy, and an untreated underlying mental health difficulty


  1. There is a slow shift starting, away from medication and towards preventative community action, including action to tackle community segregation, loneliness, and isolation in cities. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock highlighted the need to think ‘less about the pills, more about the prevention’ and University Researchers from Harvard to Kings’ College London and beyond, emphasised the growing need for quality Mental Health research, sociological impact assessments, and treatment analysis


  1. Commissions, units, charities, research bodies – Mental Health is starting to become its own standalone sector. This Summit saw highly reputable medical/science journal The Lancet launch its new ‘Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health’, with its Chair, Harvard Professor Vikram Patel, stating that ‘Mental Health is the one area of policy where all countries are united in their neglect of it’. The panel emphasised that when people think about ‘mental health’ they instantly think of mental illness, when mental health is so much more than mental illness. The panel pledged to use research to fearlessly address the colossal suffering at the hands of mental health and to publicly champion a fresh way of thinking about this issue


  1. Noise is being made, purely because of the ripple effect of how many people are now touched by Mental Health personally. The WHO estimated that 300 million people globally are living with depression, and 260m with some form of anxiety, with organisation CitiesRISE discussing how and why over 800,000 across the world now commit suicide every single year. Prison welfare programmes highlighted that ‘Hurt People Hurt People’ and emphasised the effects of Mental Health on crime and reoffending rates, as well as deteriorating inmate welfare within prison itself


  1. Businesses and workplaces are beginning to step in. The World Bank presented on its own internal Mental Health programmes including having their own permanent in-house psychologists for employees, and companies including IBM, Google, and even Government Departments discussed their growing focus on workplace wellbeing


  1. The frustration about the Mental Health landscape was palpable, with public figures like Alastair Campbell, Richard Curtis, Poorna Bell and Matt Haig discussing the very real, very devastating consequences on people’s lives including theirs. There are still a lot of people who believe that the best they can hope for is to be able to live with their condition. Organisations like Mind and TimeToChange, alongside NHS services like CAMHS, discussed how they are trying to stem the tide of hugely troubled people, but without effective treatment this picture will only get worse. There was still a lot of surprise and borderline scepticism that The Thrive Programme is actually able to teach people to overcome it, but a huge level of interest in the fact that we say we do, so watch this space…!


Following this Summit Summary, we’ve also put 3 very short pieces of advice for anyone currently struggling with their Mental Health, or wanting to help others to Thrive too;

  • Start socialising and building your own community and your own thriving life. Waiting for services to step in may never yield results. So if it’s not there, build it!
  • It’s not just about having access to services but about access to the RIGHT, EFFECTIVE services. If something isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to try something else
  • We are still one of the only organisations that has any concrete, overarching programme (backed up by evidence) to teach people how their poor mental health CAN be (and routinely is) overcome. So if you want to do that too, get in touch and join our Thrive Mental Health Revolution!