Bangor expert in mental health research helps launch the European Mental Health Integration Index

Marking World Mental Health Day (10 October) The Mental Health Integration Index (MHII) explores, for the first time, the challenges of integrating Europeans with mental illnesses into society and employment within Europe’s 28 member states & Norway and Swizerland.  The research initiative was commissioned by Janssen and undertaken by the Economics Intelligence Unit.

Peter Huxley, Professor of Mental Health Research at Bangor University, who was one of an expert team of five advising on which areas and index items should be included, comments on the report findings saying:

“While we all face great challenges in providing appropriate support to people with mental health problems, it is gratifying to see that the UK comes second in the integration index. There is still a lot to do to improve social inclusion even in the higher rated countries. Examples of best policy and practice are not confined to the high scoring countries and can be found in many other places in Europe, and indeed, the rest of the world.”  

Prof Huxley, whose expertise is in mental health and social care outcome measures (such as Quality of Life and Social Inclusion) and who is based at Bangor University’s Centre for Mental Health and Society in the School of Social Sciences, was one of the Mental Health Integration Index Expert Panel. He advised on which items should be included in the four sections of the Index: environment, access, opportunities and governance.

He comments:

“We need to be clear that the MHII has not been developed to support target-driven service strategies, but to help policy makers and others to demonstrate the impact of the integration policies, with the ultimate objective of improving integration and social inclusion for people and their families.”

“One of the most surprising findings is that only seven countries have policy arrangements in place to support the development and use of measures which record how people fared having used services (Patient Recorded Outcome Measures - PROMS). I would expect that future versions of this Index will show the spread of PROMS throughout Europe, albeit gradually”.

“An important consideration raised by this pioneering work, is that the community into which people are integrated, their social environment, may for some be best provided by their peers”

Germany's strong healthcare system and generous social provision placed it at the top of the Index, closely followed by the UK and then the Scandinavian states. However, the Index showed that the leading countries are not the only sources of best practice in integrating those with mental illness and even the leading countries should not be complacent about integration policy implementation.

According to the findings, employment is the field of greatest concern for those with mental illness. This was already known, but the MHII confirms this and also shows that this is the integration policy that is most inconsistent across Europe.

The fact that real investment is what separates those addressing the issue from those setting only aspirational policies, is reinforced by the MHII. According to the report, aspirational policies must be matched by political will, and budgetary silos and poor coordination between services must be addressed.

The report makes important recommendations in order to improve the integration of people living with mental illness into society. These include gathering better data in all areas of medical and service provision and outcomes, backing up mental health policies with appropriate funding, finishing the now decades-old task of moving from hospital to community-centred support and focusing on the hard task of providing integrated, community-based services, especially integrated employment services provision, as employment integration policies are the most disparate of the policies included in the report.

Publication date: 9 October 2014