Another “May is Mental Health Month” has come and gone, and it is time to build on years of awareness campaigns and move into action to promote whole health and recovery. People with serious mental health conditions are dying on average 25 years earlier than the general population, largely due to preventable physical health conditions, so why do we still focus on mental health separately from physical health? And when we know that people with serious mental health conditions face an 80 percent unemployment rate, why do we largely ignore the role of poverty, economic and social inequality, and other environmental factors in mainstream discussions about mental health?
Decades of public health research have clearly shown that access to the social determinants of health — affordable housing, educational and vocational opportunities, and community inclusion — are far more important to mental and physical health than access to health care alone. As one recent article explained: “For many patients, a prescription for housing or food is the most powerful