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Mental health promotion partly involves focusing on those strengthening factors known to protect mental health and those reducing factors known to increase risk of mental illness (Department of Health: UK, 2001). Critically discuss.

Mental health promotion partly involves focusing on those strengthening factors known to protect mental health and those reducing factors known to increase risk of mental illness (Department of Health: UK, 2001). Critically discuss.

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Sinead Fallon. Originally submitted for Youth and Family Studies at None, with lecturer Tom O Grady in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Sinead Fallon. Originally submitted for Youth and Family Studies at None, with lecturer Tom O Grady in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
Mental health promotion partly involves focusing on those strengthening factorsknown to protect mental health and those reducing factors known to increase risk of mental illness (Department of Health: UK, 2001). Critically discuss.
 Abstract 
The paper sets out to explore the validity of the argument that strengthening factors protect mental health and reducing factors increase risk of mental illness. Consulting withthe most relevant literature, including that of the World Health Organisation,Departments of Health in Ireland and internationally and a host of academic researchers.The most recurring strengthening and reducing factors are identified. Mental health is notdefined as the absence of mental ill health, as it is quite possible for individuals withmental illnesses to be mentally healthy on any given day. Mental health promotion on theother hand is a process which when enacted will strengthen resilience and reduce possiblerisks to mental health. The most recurring risk factor across the literature and one of themost stressful life situations that individuals deal with on a daily basis is poverty. Gendeis the second most common risk factor found in literature. It plays an important role insusceptibility to mental illness; men are four times more likely to commit suicide andwomen Para suicide women are at greatly increased risk of depression and anxiety andeating disorders. How men and women deal with their emotions was also found to besignificant in the case of gender. Major life events are a cross cultural, cross class risk that exist, events such as bereavement, job loss, illness, child birth, empty nest syndromeetc. can affect the mental resilience of an individual causing them to temporarily or  permanently fall into a state of mental ill health. Early life experience and morespecifically effective parenting (or lack of) of young children is also identified as a risk factor for mental illness. On the opposite side of risk factors are the protective factors,these are the scaffolding that help reinforce our internal resilience and protect us in timesof difficulty and distress, these are arguably why when two people faced with equalchallenges and difficulties in life, one man struggles and the other flourishes. Some of the protective factors recurring in the literature are empowerment, ethnic minorities’integration, positive interpersonal interactions, social participation, social responsibilityand tolerance, social services, social support and community network, social skills,family harmony, positive school climate, positive life events in childhood and attachmentto and networks within the community. Finally five examples of mental health promotionintervention programmes aimed at increasing protective and reducing risk factors areidentified. Examining a programme under each of the five key areas for action set out inW.H.O.’s Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, building healthy public policy,
 
creatingsupportive environments, strengthening community action, developing personal skills andreorienting the health service. These examples were chosen from current research for their excellence in the field and as exemplary instances of each of the five key areas for action of the Ottawa Charter.
 
 Mental health promotion partly involves focusing on those strengthening factors knownto protect mental health and those reducing factors known to increase risk of mental illness (Department of Health: UK, 2001). Critically discuss.
In the essay we set out to explore the validity of the argument that strengthening factors protect mental health and reducing factors increase risk of mental illness. We will explorethis by examining in detail what strengthening factors and reducing factors are,attempting to define them using relevant literature and looking at the history of theemergence of such thought. We will seek out examples of both and investigate anyrelevant projects that have been undertaken to protect mental health.It is important first to explain what mental health promotion is. Mental health is described by WHO as
: “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her ownabilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully,and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”(Promoting Mental Health2005: XIX)
Mental health is not defined as the absence of mental ill health, as it is quite possible for individuals with mental illnesses to be mentally healthy on any given day.This definition recognises the significance that mental health has on several aspects of everyday life and by definition when mental health is not at its optimum many areas of the life of the individual are affected. Mental health is only one aspect of health; other aspects may include physical, spiritual, sexual and emotional health. Mental health promotion on the other hand is a process which when enacted will strengthen resilienceand reduce possible risks to mental health.
“Mental health promotion can be seen as a kind of immunization, working to strengthen the resilience of individuals, families, organizations and communities,as well as: to reduce conditions which are known to damage mental well-being ineveryone, whether or not they currently have a mental health problem.”
(HealthEducation Authority 1998:1)Many strengthening and risk factors appear when one examines the relevant literature.We will explore the most commonly recurring themes in the literature in order to analyzethem. We will first deal with the risk factors. The most recurring risk factor across the
 
literature and one of the most stressful life situations that individuals deal with on a daily basis is poverty. The Promoting Mental Health
 
Strategy and Action Plan 2003-2008,declare that “poverty, low wages, unemployment, poor housing and poor education havea substantial impact on people’s health”. Coming from a low income background leadsto many difficulties, firstly many individuals presenting with depression cite economicdifficulties as the cause of their illness according to the Promoting mental health and preventing mental illness report in Wales. Other associated problems are the possibilityof having a lower level of education coming from an economically challenged background with many people from such backgrounds not completing second leveleducation “early school-leaving remains a significant societal issue, predominantly for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds” (CPA 2009). Poor housing is alsocommon as cited by Patel & Kleinman (2003).
“The relationship between poverty and  poor mental health may be mediated by a number of factors including the humiliationand insecurity of living in poverty.”
(Narayan et al., 2000). As we found earlier mentalhealth is supported by all dimensions of health and there is a strong correlation betweenlow economic status and physical illness. Evidence shows that a link between lack of  physical health and mental illness exists, the WHO promoting mental health report(2005) introduces a number studies showing these links
“stress is related to thedevelopment of the common cold (Cohen, Tyrrell & Smith, 1991) and delays wound healing” (Kielcot-Glaser et al., 1999).
The report also highlights the link between physical ill health and mental ill health.
“heart disease and cancer can increase the risk of depression”
(Marmot & Wilkinson, 1999) Gender is the second most common risk factor found in literature. It plays an important role in susceptibility to mental illness;men are four times more likely to commit suicide and women Para suicide women are atgreatly increased risk of depression and anxiety and eating disorders. (Meltzer et al 1995;ONS 2001, Piccinelli and Wilkinson 2000).
“Women are much more vulnerable to arange of key risk factors for mental ill health, including poverty, unemployment, domesticviolence, sexual violence and rape and child sexual abuse”
(Gold 1998; Finkelhor 1994;Mulder et al 1998; Richardson et al 2002; Department of Health 2002) How men andwomen deal with their emotions is significant in the case of gender, men are slow to actwhen troubled and tend to deal with problems alone. Therefore gender becomes a risk 

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