Tackling The Social Determinants Of Mental Health Through Proportionate Universalism Across The Life Stages

Tackling The Social Determinants Of Mental Health Through Proportionate Universalism Across The Life Stages

Mental Illnesses 0 Comment

 Mental Health Issues

There is a clear link between social inequalities and the onset of mental health issues. We see this in both the social environment we live in, such as class and economic situations, and the physical environment. The wide range of social determinants and the impact across different societies, classes, and countries is a big issue.

How do we work to ensure that everyone gets the right amount of help to appropriately deal with key issues? The answer for many experts is to engage in a system of proportionate universalism that covers all life stages.

Social Determinants Can Come In Many Forms


Many social factors can have an impact on mental illness. Housing conditions, such as the quality of the home, material goods, and sanitation play their part. Then there is the issue of employment status and the wealth and social standing that comes from that. Poor working conditions and debt are massive contributing factors. Then there are issues with access to healthcare, education and other opportunities within a community or region.

Mental Health Issues

The Movement For Global Mental Health Highlights Three Key Principles To Tackle These Important Social Issues.

  • To improve the protection of human rights and prevent the stigma and discrimination on those with mental health issues.
  • To bridge the gap between the vulnerable and those receiving care via health and social care initiatives.
  • To integrate these initiatives through key developments.

Much Of Current Research Talks About The Need For A Life Course Approach.

Mental Health, Social Issue

This means the ability to look beyond provisions for adults with diagnosed mental health issues to wider problems. Measures in high and low-income countries have shown that this wider approach works. It can help to reduce the risk of a vulnerable population developing a mental health problem.

The focus here is the ability to help prevent mental health issues by improving conditions that children are born into. There is a clear need to prevent this onset of mental illness through improved living conditions.

A child born into a better social situation is less likely to develop the mental illnesses associated with their parents’ generation. It is all about giving children the best start in life. This comes either from childhood, through education systems and social mobility schemes, or before birth.

The act of tackling the social determinants of mental health cannot be solely rested on the youth. Mental illness occurs at any age. Teenagers can develop a host of mood and anxiety disorders as their social climate and peers adapt and alter. This ties in with the potential for drug-induced mental health issues and other behavioral issues.


In adulthood, our social situations change with no responsibilities, locations, and relationships. Here the problems of class, sexuality, race, and education can play another role in mental health. In our senior years, relationships and social situations shift again as health deteriorates and we lose a sense of independence.

This all means that measures need to be in place to help the vulnerable in all stages of life. There is a bias towards childhood, with the thought that a good start will lessen the issues in later life. However, we cannot ignore the end of life care.

Age Is One Of The Factors To Consider Here, Proportionate Universalism Is The Other

There is also the fact that any action taken need to occur across society and in proportion to the need of the individual, or community. This is proportionate universalism. This means a strategy that can be implemented on a worldwide scale. Essentially, from a wealthy state in the US to a poorer nation in Africa, with a proportional response based on need.

Class and wealth are important issues at the risk of mental health issues. This is because of status, provision of care, standards of living and access to resources. Researchers have seen that while there is growing recognition of mental health issues in wealthier, first-world countries.

There is a gap between them and lower-income, developing nations. There is, therefore, a strong call to raise awareness, improve research and increase opportunities in these poorer areas.

Strong mental health care cannot center on the rich. Not when there is a lack of accessibility and stronger social determinants in more deprived areas. At the same time, we cannot focus solely on the disadvantaged and ignore the growing concerns in wealthier areas. This is where the proportional response comes in. Everyone simply gets their appropriate share.

From There, There Is Also The Need To Work On Different Levels Within That Community

Community-based projects for social mobility and mental health provision are important. However, they need to work on a larger and smaller scale. There needs to be work on a broader structural and population level to see this proportionate universalism in action. At the equivalent time, there has to be a family and individual level so that patients can receive treatment as individuals. The system works as below:

  • Country-level: general laws and regulations on inequalities, discrimination, education, employment, human rights, housing, healthcare.
  • Local services: a focus on local authorities and their role in providing education, living conditions and health services appropriate to the region.
  • Community services: the level of wealth and deprivation of a neighborhood. The sense of pride in community vs. hatred. The availability of neighborhood schemes, youth services, and clubs.
  • Family-based: individual situations of a family regarding income, provisions, housing, physical health, and parenting.

These Ideas Of A Multi-Level System Through Proportionate Universalism Fit In With Those Principles Of The Movement For Global Mental Health.

This all works with those guidelines above. The protection of individuals against discrimination comes from this multi-level system and country-wide measures across social divides. This proportional approach is set to level the social gradient between the wealthy and vulnerable communities struggling with mental illness.

Then there is the desire to integrate measures into development initiatives. We see this in the identification of different social determinants and the ability to work across all life stages. The combination of the proportional approach based on global issues across the life stages does seem to be the best option.

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