Monday 5 December 2016

Social injustice and inequality play a pivotal role in mental health of citizens

Dr Paul D’Alton

Published 26/01/2016 | 02:30

It is abundantly clear that the chronic stress inherent in disadvantaged communities has significant impact on their mental health. (stock photo)
It is abundantly clear that the chronic stress inherent in disadvantaged communities has significant impact on their mental health. (stock photo)

On March 18, 1968, three months before he was assassinated, Robert Kennedy said: "Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."

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I think the same can be said about our approach to well-being and mental health. We seem to disregard the things that make life worthwhile - the beauty of poetry, the strength of our relationships, the intelligence of public debate. We seem to forget the central role that compassion and wisdom play in shaping a society where individuals can live good lives. We seem to forget that the health of our children, the quality of their education and the joy of their play lay the very foundations for later well-being and mental health. Until we approach mental health from this perspective nothing is going to change.

Over the last three decades there is growing evidence that we need to work with whole systems if we are to improve health and well-being. I firmly believe that if we continue to think in siloed terms about mental health and well-being we are going nowhere quickly.

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