Improving mental health and wellbeing in Sunderland

Reviewing the impact of projects on mental health and health-based inequalities.

Mental health and wellbeing is a key priority for Sunderland City Council.

In 2017 an estimated 19.3% of the city’s population over the age of 16 had a common mental health disorder, compared to the national average of 16.9% (OHID, 2022). The COVID-19 pandemic created an increased demand for already stretched resources.

Sunderland City Council was awarded funding through the COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing Recovery Action Plan. The aim was to improve service capacity and access to interventions, with a focus on reducing inequalities. Using local data, collaborative systems and identified inequalities, seven projects were earmarked for support.

Urban Foresight was commissioned to carry out end-point reviews of the seven individual projects and the overall programme. The evaluation aimed to evidence the impact of the projects and provide recommendations of how to invest in more sustainable and effective approaches to improve mental health and health-based inequalities.

The review found that the Better Mental Health projects had delivered positive impacts for individuals and the community. After taking part in projects 96% of the 28 service users who provided feedback felt that their mental health had improved and 86% felt they had regained confidence and independence.

Urban Foresight was able to make a raft of recommendations to future-proof the positive impacts of these projects. This included how to support vulnerable groups, provide practical support to address the determinants of mental health, and social activities for all ages to address issues of loneliness and social isolation.

Maddy Thomson, Senior Consultant at Urban Foresight said, “We are delighted to use our expertise in evaluating programme impacts and providing recommendations for development to support Sunderland City Council.

We share their vision that everyone in Sunderland should live a healthy, happy life, with no one left behind. It is critical that we address and reduce health inequalities, ensuring projects have a tangible impact on quality of life

Mental health must remain an area of focus at local, regional, and national scales.”

This project builds on Urban Foresight’s previous work in health and social care, including Data as an Asset in Social Care and Social Prescribing of Active Travel.