THE Government should routinely and systematically assess the impact of every new policy on people’s mental health, according a new report published during Mental Health Awareness Week.

The report from independent charity Centre for Mental Health says that policy proposals across government – from housing and the environment to benefits and immigration – should be tested for how they are likely to affect mental health before being implemented.

This process would involve gathering evidence on the impact any proposed government action would have on mental health and weighing up whether it would result in a ‘net-positive’ effect. This would allow policies to be changed to produce greater benefits or prevent any harmful impacts before they are implemented.

The report, Policies for better mental health, says that such policy tests would improve mental health, reduce mental illness and lead to better policies overall.

It says that undertaking a ‘mental health policy test’ would help policymakers to consider the knock-on implications of any new proposal. It points to examples where policy testing in local and national government has already led to better outcomes for society. And it says that implementing such tests across all government departments could improve policymaking long-term.

The charity points to recent proposals to change Personal Independence Payment (PIP) as an example of a policy with major mental health implications. A robust policy test would alert policymakers to the harms caused by reducing benefits and increasing financial strain on people already struggling with their mental health.

Andy Bell, chief executive at Centre for Mental Health, said: “Every government policy affects our mental health, for good or ill. A mental health policy test is a simple and effective way of ensuring the greatest benefits and reducing risks. It is uniquely positioned to bring about positive change in everything from education to social security to town planning, by considering how these affect people’s wellbeing.

“We urge the Government and all political parties to commit to implementing a robust mental health policy test. Alongside a national mental health plan and a Mental Health Commissioner at the heart of government, the policy test could change the way policies get made and have a major and lasting impact on the lives of millions of people nationwide.”

* Read: Policies for better mental health here.

* Source: Centre for Mental Health