Mental Health and Wellbeing

The concept of well-being comprises two main elements: feeling good and functioning well. Feelings of happiness, contentment, enjoyment, curiosity and engagement are characteristic of someone who has a positive experience of their life. Equally important for wellbeing is our functioning in the world. Experiencing positive relationships, having some control over one’s life and having a sense of purpose are all important attributes of wellbeing [1]

The emergence of a wellbeing response to mental health service provision owes much to the legacy of a Recovery Movement, which weakened traditional medical model approaches to mental health service provision in the 90’s.  The concept of person centred interventions that recognise every individual’s unique and inherent value was central to the Recovery Movement approach.

The notion that every individual has potential has developed (through wellbeing) to a notion which recognises and promotes a conviction that all human beings have the ability to flourish and thrive (beyond ownership of self and unique value).

Ideas about wellbeing are beginning to sit comfortably with government, policy makers and the wider public consciousness.  Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) providers should consider how their organisations might respond to the wellbeing agenda in practical and tangible terms. 

For traditional mental health service providers the opportunities and challenges associated with the promotion and development of a culture which truly enables individual are significant. 

The development of enabling organisations necessitates multi-agency working.  It involves a total commitment to collaborative working across and beyond known communities.  There is also a need for sophisticated information management systems, which support and resource people experiencing mental distress through reliable, person centred, outcome focused, approaches.

What are the implications?

  • Services will need to look beyond an individual’s illness, considering all aspects of life and notions self when planning wellbeing provision.
  • Services that look at the whole person - and support an active empowered lifestyle are most likely to thrive.
  • Effective wellbeing approaches demand excellent inter-agency working on an informal and formal basis.  Wellbeing workers or guides need to know and relate to a wide range of community resources.  It’s important that knowledge is accurate and accessible.  For many mental health service providers, resource intelligence may need to be sought beyond traditional mental health environments.
  • An understanding and sharing of what works in the promotion of wellbeing will help organisations to develop person centred wellbeing interventions, in line with the move to personalised budgets.
  • Wellbeing practitioners could become the next generation of community engagement workers.
  • Wellbeing approaches offer the opportunity for a truly person centred service and activity development.  Effective, high quality information management information tools are required to underpin this approach.

Moving forward

  • How could your organisation deliver wellbeing outcomes for individuals and the wider community you serve?
  • Are you developing services that enhance control for people with direct experience of mental distress, increasing their resilience and supporting broad community participation?
  • Does your organisation work with the whole person, not just their diagnosis?  Can you demonstrate this to commissioners and other supporters – and can you evidence the impact of this approach?
  • Organisations that embrace the wellbeing agenda well are connected to their communities, participative, engaged and passionate about the provision of high quality services.  What role is your organisation playing in your wider community’s wellbeing?  Is your organisation helping to shape the local community - or simply responding to it? 
  • Can the infrastructure of your organisation support new approaches to person centred support and wider community development work?
  • Are you paying attention to staff and volunteer wellbeing as well as those using your services?  Have you considered the potential impact of an organisational commitment to wellbeing and talked this through with those responsible for governance and strategy?

A note of caution

There are a number of definitions and approaches to wellbeing. A uniform response to the wellbeing and mental health agenda (by services) may be hard to promote without a clear definition.  The VCS community needs to work together to ensure a robust and meaningful definition is developed.  This might require the development of a cross sector wellbeing network, similar to the Scottish Recovery Network. In the absence of a single approach, multiple interpretations will flourish.  This has the potential to create confusion and cynicism amongst users and practitioners.


  1. Psychological well-being: evidence regarding its causes and its consequences by F Huppert [back]
Last updated at 11:17 Wed 14/Jul/10.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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