The Challenge - find a champion!

Local authorities have a key role in implementing the mental health strategy and improving mental health in their communities. We want to support and encourage local authorities to take a proactive approach to this crucial issue. So we’ve set up the Challenge.

Local authorities

We are asking all local authorities to take up The Mental Health Challenge and have produced a template motion to enable councils to promote mental health across all of their business.

This council notes:

  • 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the second most common health condition worldwide by 2020.
  • Mental ill health costs some £105 billion each year in England alone.
  • People with a severe mental illness die up to 20 years younger than their peers in the UK.
  • There is often a circular relationship between mental health and issues such as housing, employment, family problems or debt.

This council believes:

  • As a local authority we have a crucial role to play in improving the mental health of everyone in our community and tackling some of the widest and most entrenched inequalities in health.
  • Mental health should be a priority across all the local authority’s areas of responsibility, including housing, community safety and planning.
  • All councillors, whether members of the Executive or Scrutiny and in our community and casework roles, can play a positive role in championing mental health on an individual and strategic basis.

This council resolves:

  • To sign the Local Authorities’ Mental Health Challenge run by Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Providers Forum, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Royal College of Psychiatrists and YoungMinds.
  • We commit to appoint an elected member as ‘mental health champion’ across the council.
  • We will seek to identify a member of staff within the council to act as ‘lead officer’ for mental health.
  • The council will also:
  • Support positive mental health in our community, including in local schools, neighbourhoods and workplaces.
  • Work to reduce inequalities in mental health in our community.
  • Work with local partners to offer effective support for people with mental health needs.
  • Tackle discrimination on the grounds of mental health in our community.
  • Proactively listen to people of all ages and backgrounds about what they need for better mental health.
  • Sign up to the Time to Change pledge

The member champion

Member ‘champions’ may be a cabinet member or health and wellbeing board member or they might be ‘backbench’ councillors. The role would be distinctive from the formal responsibility of the lead member for social care, though it is possible that the same individual could do both.

Enthusiasm and commitment are more important than formal position in becoming a member champion. What is crucial is that an elected member takes on this role in order to influence the full range of the authority’s activities and responsibilities.

The role of champion will be defined locally but key activities might include:

  • Advocating for mental health issues in council meetings and policy development
  • Reaching out to the local community (eg via schools, businesses, faith groups) to raise awareness and challenge stigma
  • Listening to people with personal experience of mental ill health to get their perspectives on local needs and priorities
  • Scrutinising the work of local services that have an impact on mental health: eg health, social care, housing, police.
  • Fostering local partnerships between agencies to support people with mental health problems more effectively
  • Encouraging the council to support the mental health of its own workforce and those of its contractors.

The member champion will have access to the following benefits to help them in these roles:

  • Advice and support from the mental health challenge national partners (usually by phone or email)
  • Access to resources on the challenge web site members’ area
  • A monthly update on relevant news, events and key policy developments
  • An annual meeting with other member champions to share intelligence, experiences and ideas.

As local leaders for better mental health, we expect all member champions to:

  • Provide a vocal presence for mental health within their council where this is necessary
  • Identify at least one priority each year for focused work
  • Seek the views of people with lived experiences of mental ill health when identifying priorities and concerns
  • Work respectfully, sensitively and empathically with people with mental health problems at all times
  • Respond to occasional requests from the challenge coordinator for updates on activities undertaken in the role of member champion.

We are aware that member champions are elected members of councils who have a number of competing priorities and limited time to put into the role of member champion.

The national partners reserve the right to raise concerns where member champions whose conduct falls below the expectations set out above. Where steps are not taken to address concerns expressed by the national partners, councils may be removed from the challenge membership.

Lead officer role description:

The role of lead officer can be taken by any staff member in the council. Their role may include, but not be limited by:

  • Providing information to the member champion to support their work
  • Advising the member champion on current issues and priorities
  • Supporting implementation of strategies initiated by the member champion
  • Raising awareness within the council’s staff about mental health issues
  • Seeking external support for activities led by the council to promote mental health and wellbeing
  • Liaising with the mental health challenge national partners to secure information and advice.The lead officer will also have access to the benefits described above for member champions.

Support from national organisations

National mental health organisations will support local authorities that take on the challenge by:

  • Providing resources (for example published evidence, expert opinion and briefings) to help councils to take local action in support of the strategy.
  • Offering networking opportunities and peer support for mental health champions, including an annual meeting and through use of electronic media.
  • Recognising and acknowledging publicly the councils that sign up to the challenge and the ‘champions’ they appoint.

Champions say

"It's time to change our view on mental health, it really is something which touches everyone." Bournemouth Borough Council

Mental Health Facts

Mental ill health affects us all

  • One in five of us has a mental health condition at any one time.
  • Around half of people with lifetime mental health problems experience the first symptoms before the age of 14.
  • Only a quarter of people with a mental health condition receive any treatment for it.
  • Nine out of ten people in prison have at least one mental health problem. Almost a quarter of prisoners have a mental illness that requires specialist treatment.
  • Mental ill health has an economic and social cost of £105bn a year.
  • Mental illness accounts for 28% of the total burden of disease but only 13% of NHS spending.
  • Untreated mental ill health adds around £10 billion a year to the cost of physical health care for people with long-term conditions.
  • People with severe and enduring mental health conditions die on average 20 years earlier than those without.
So take a proactive approach and promote mental health across your area
join our Challenge

Mental Health Challenge

Centre for Mental Health
Mental Health Foundation
Rethink Mental Illness
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Young Minds