The ProMenPol project is taking place within a rapidly developing EU and national set of contexts. At EU level, a major policy initiative is taking place in relation to the development of mental health policy, and this concern with mental health issues is being mirrored in a number of Member States. In addition, the WHO has sharpened its focus on mental health issues in recent years. More information on these policy developments can be found within the Policy Issues section.
Despite this increasing concern with policy development in the area, there has been a relative dearth of internationally comparable statistics in the area of mental health. Data collected at national level has problems of comparability across countries, which has led to a number of transnational data collection initiatives in recent years. These have focused mainly on mental health problems, but there are also some transnational surveys which provide information on positive features of mental wellbeing. More information on these statistical sources can be found within the Statistics section.
Situating the Project
There are a number of issues in the background which make it distinctive as a project. These relate to:
- Promoting the concept of mental health promotion
- Providing policy oriented information to policy makers
- Supporting good practice by practitioners
- Making sense of the proliferation of tools for mental health promotion
Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing
Much of the policy, research and practical materials that are available deal with mental illness in its various forms. However, the ProMenPol project is focusing on mental healthy promotion and protection, i.e. the maintenance of good mental health and the protection of mental health from harmful influences.
To do this, the project is adopting a settings approach, i.e. it targets some of the major environments where people are educated, work and live. It addresses the factors in these environments which can influence mental health and wellbeing in either a positive or a negative way.
Policy Oriented Information
There is an international trend towards broadening the evidence base for policy making. This is often interpreted as pointing towards a greater need for policy making to be more scientifically based. However, policy makers typically develop policy in the absence of a solid scientific basis.
The relevance of scientific research to policy development is often questionable. Much of it is performed for reasons other than as an input to policy. Much of the research that is undertaken is narrow in scope, compared to the needs of broad scale policy development. Even where it has been commissioned by the policy development process, much of the research is post hoc and may provide little guidance for the future.
ProMenPol addresses this issue by seeking to create a link between policy makers and practitioners. Through encouraging practitioners to undertake field trials of tools for mental health and wellbeing promotion, and by promoting the direct interchange of information between practitioners and policy makers, the project will shorten the time lag between the development of policy and its evaluation. In addition, the project will enable practitioners have direct access to both policy makers and research support.
Supporting Good Practice
A major element of ProMenPol is the focus on undertaking field trials of mental health promotion tools. The project team will provide direct support to practitioners to implement evaluations of the work that they are doing. In addition, the project provides support through a database of mental health promotion and protection tools and through the provision of settings based discussion groups on the project website. The project will also develop a ProMenPol toolkit, tailored to each of the three settings that will contain the best available tools for mental health promotion.
The ProMenPol Database and Toolkit
There has been a rapid proliferation of ‘solutions’ and responses at societal, organisational and individual level to the growth of mental health problems in the European population. This project sets out to identify useful and practical approaches to the promotion and protection of mental health amongst this wide diversity of theories, models and methods, to form the basis for a systematic multidimensional approach to promoting personal mental health and managing the risk factors that predispose distress and pathology. The project will develop a database of useful tools in the area and by project end, will develop a ProMenPol toolkit, which will contain the best available tools for mental health promotion and protection.