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Global Wellness Institute Releases Mental Wellness Policy Toolkit

The first of its kind, this practical and in-depth resource presents mental wellness as a missing policy domain separate from, and complementary to, mental health policy. It details a host of actionable, inclusive mental wellness strategies—whether social prescribing, arts and cultural engagement, access to nature, or restructuring our built environment

Miami, FL – June 26, 2024 – The non-profit Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the leading research organization for the global wellness industry, today released Wellness Policy Toolkit: Mental Wellness, a crucial new addition to its ongoing Wellness Policy Series. While there have been countless policy papers on mental health, this is the first policy report to focus on mental wellness as a key resource that can help us cope with stress and adversity while also promoting mental health. Mental wellness has been overlooked in policy, and the 85-page report is the first to give policymakers, businesses and community leaders clear, concrete strategies to tackle the most pressing crises, such as stress, loneliness and inequitable access to critical resources. The report details the many specific mental wellness pathways (and examples of global programs underway) that can support all populations, including social prescribing, arts and cultural engagement, access to nature, incorporating technology, reimagining our built environment, and practices like yoga, meditation, spirituality, sleep, healthy food, physical activity, and more.

“Supporting our mental wellness doesn’t mean we need to spend a lot of money or take an expensive trip. This toolkit will help everyone, from the newly initiated to seasoned policymakers, understand why focusing on mental wellness is so crucial,” said Tonia Callender, GWI research fellow and the report’s lead author. “The report is the first to explain the many strategies we can choose to improve our resiliency and wellbeing and to demonstrate how new mental wellness initiatives could prove the missing weapon in combatting skyrocketing rates of loneliness, anxiety and depression.”

Download the free report HERE.

The Dire Need for Mental Wellness Policy: The toolkit helps readers grasp the scope and costs of poor mental wellbeing. Globally, rising rates of depression, anxiety and loneliness—all accelerated by the pandemic—are straining traditional community health and social resources beyond their breaking points. The World Health Organization estimates that the pandemic increased worldwide rates of anxiety and depression by over 25%; Gallup’s 2023 Global Emotions Report reveals that 40% of people report recently experiencing a lot of worry or stress; and Gallup research also reveals that almost a quarter of the global population feels fairly or very lonely. While in a developed country like the US, mental health proponents worry about having only 105 mental health workers per 100,000 people, the global average is only nine workers per 100,000 people. For African nations, the average is only 2.4 professionals for every 100,000 individuals.

“One of the biggest shifts in the wellness sector over the last decade has been towards more mental wellness modalities and a greater understanding of how they can support our mental health,” said Susie Ellis, GWI chair and CEO. “With such a severe scarcity of traditional mental health resources, the time is now to bring accessible, evidence-based mental wellness approaches into policy at every single level.”

Five Key Policy Actions for Mental Wellness:

The heart of the toolkit is the in-depth discussion of five key policy objectives and practical actions that can be taken to improve mental wellness. Each section describes the problem to be solved, the many possible policy actions and global examples, and a list of sample tangible activities.

Policy objective #1: Improve mental wellness literacy

Action: Improve knowledge and understanding of mental wellness to nudge its adoption by individuals and communities 

Sample policies: One awareness-raising policy is the Australia-born Mental Health First Aid program, which has spread to 25 countries and trained over 6 million people. Much like physical first aid training, the program teaches community members practical skills on how to proactively recognize, respond to, and support someone experiencing a mental health problem, until professional help can be received. Since 2019, the UK’s National Health Service has run a publicly funded “Every Mind Matters” campaign to build adults’ literacy on mental wellbeing issues and strategies. 

Policy objective #2: Increase access to activities and spaces that promote mental wellness

Action: Leverage community infrastructure, nature, arts/culture, and technology to expand access to mental wellness, especially for underserved groups

Sample policies: Zimbabwe originated the simple but effective Friendship Benches program, where trained volunteers provide conversation and emotional support at public benches. Similar programs have spread around the world (in Guyana, the UK, the US, etc.). In Washington, DC, a new program trains older adults in the basics of talk therapy and empathetic listening to occupy benches near senior wellness and community centers. Men’s Sheds, in Scotland and Australia, is a community crafting program that blends woodworking, pottery, and social activities to help men find connection and purpose in learning new skills.

Policy objective #3: Create more socially-connected communities

Action: Strengthen social connections through programs, social prescribing, the built environment, and technology 

Sample policies: Denmark’s Ventilen (Friend to One) organization uses volunteers to facilitate organized social activities (e.g., cooking, movie and board game nights) to help young adults build social networks. Originating in the UK in the 1980s, and now used in more than a dozen countries (including Portugal, Sweden, Korea, Australia, and China), social prescribing helps people facing loneliness, depression, and health issues to connect with social community activities. Employees called “link workers” or “wellbeing coaches/coordinators” connect individuals to activities such as volunteering, time in nature, group mindful movement, fitness, arts activities (such as the UK’s Arts on Prescription program), museum visits, and walking groups.

Policy objective #4: Promote mental wellness among children and youth 

Action: Given the alarming rates of stress, anxiety and depression in the young, teach them coping skills and build their social networks to improve their mental resilience

Sample policies: The global David Lynch Quiet Time programs, Smiling Mind in Australia, Finland’s Time Out project, Universal Promise in South Africa, SEHER in India, and Positive Action in the US are all examples of programs designed to combat stress for children or teach youth coping skills. The Lively Minds program in Uganda and Ghana teaches young people social and emotional skills development. 

Policy objective #5: Integrate mental wellness-supporting policies into healthcare and other wellness sectors to facilitate much needed coordination between sectors

Action: Embed mental wellness activities across many other wellness sectors and domains to support holistic mental wellbeing

Sample policies: The Japanese government’s “Stress Check Program” requires employers with more than 50 workers to conduct annual screenings for psychosocial stressors and mental health issues. In Mexico, the government requires all employers to monitor and address psychological risk factors facing employees.

About the Global Wellness Institute:
The Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a nonprofit 501(c)(3), is considered the leading global research and educational resource for the global wellness industry and is known for introducing major industry initiatives and regional events that bring together leaders to chart the future. GWI positively impacts global health and wellness by educating public institutions, businesses and individuals on how they can work to prevent disease, reduce stress and enhance overall quality of life. Its mission is to empower wellness worldwide.