Good mental health is an integral component of population health and wellbeing and contributes to the functioning of individuals, families, communities and society (WHO, 2013). As recognized by the World Health Organization in its Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, strategies focused on curing mental ill-health alone will not necessarily deliver on improved mental health at a population level. Mental health promotion is concerned with strengthening protective factors for good mental health and enabling access to skills, resources and supportive environments that will keep individuals and populations mentally healthy. There is compelling international evidence that there are effective and feasible interventions for promoting mental health that when implemented effectively can enhance protective factors for good mental health, reduce risk factors for mental disorders, and lead to lasting positive effects on a range of health, social and economic outcomes (Barry, Clarke, Petersen and Jenkins, 2019). With the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), mental health has for the first time been included explicitly as an integral component of the global development agenda (Target 3.4). 

Mental health is a positive resource for living that requires whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches. Upstream policies and practices are needed to ensure that the conditions that create good mental health and reduce inequities are accessible to all. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the urgent need to address the mental health impact of the virus at a population level, including addressing the effects of isolation and loneliness, fear, anxiety, depression and domestic violence. However, the capacity to deliver effective strategies, especially with regard to mental health promotion and primary prevention, needs to be strengthened.

This IUHPE Global Working Group is being formed to advance the professional development and integration of mental health promotion within the wider health promotion field and to advocate for a greater focus on implementing mental health promotion within global health and development agendas. The Global Working Group will engage members in considering how this can be achieved and articulating what capacity needs to be developed to ensure that mental health promotion can be more fully integrated into mainstream health promotion and sustainable development strategies. Position papers, statements and other outputs will be developed to outline what systems need to be put in place to support the development and implementation of mental health promotion action plans, and to identify what workforce skills and capacities are needed to promote population mental health and wellbeing in different countries globally.