Community interventions for improving adult mental health: mapping local policy and practice in England.
BACKGROUND: Public mental health (PMH) aims to improve wellbeing and prevent poor mental health at the population level. It is a global challenge and a UK priority area for action. Communities play an important role in the provision of PMH interventions. However, the evidence base concerning community-based PMH interventions is limited, meaning it is challenging to compare service provision to need. Without this, the efficient and equitable provision of services is hindered. Here, we sought to map the current range of community-based interventions for improving mental health and wellbeing currently provided in England to inform priority areas for policy and service intervention. METHOD: We adopted an established mapping exercise methodology, comparing service provision with demographic and deprivation statistics. Five local authority areas of England were selected based on differing demographics, mental health needs and wider challenging circumstances (i.e. high deprivation). Community-based interventions were identified through: 1) desk-based research 2) established professional networks 3) chain-referral sampling of individuals involved in local mental health promotion and prevention and 4) peer researchers' insight. We included all community-based, non-clinical interventions aimed at adult residents operating between July 2019 and May 2020. RESULTS: 407 interventions were identified across the five areas addressing 16 risk/protective factors for PMH. Interventions for social isolation and loneliness were most prevalent, most commonly through social activities and/or befriending services. The most common subpopulations targeted were older adults and people from minority ethnic backgrounds. Interventions focusing on broader structural and environmental determinants were uncommon. There was some evidence of service provision being tailored to local need, though this was inconsistent, meaning some at-risk groups such as men or LGBTQ+ people from minority ethnic backgrounds were missed. Interventions were not consistently evaluated. CONCLUSIONS: There was evidence of partial responsiveness to national and local prioritising. Provision was geared mainly towards addressing social and individual determinants of PMH, suggesting more integration is needed to engage wider service providers and policy-makers in PMH strategy and delivery at the community level. The lack of comprehensive evaluation of services to improve PMH needs to be urgently addressed to determine the extent of their effectiveness in communities they serve.