March 2015 (HSJ)
Achieving parity of esteem for mental health in a sustainable way requires a change in attitudes towards attention, value and expectations, argues Michael West.

Much has been written about the need for “parity of esteem” between physical and mental health. Suggested
solutions often focus on practical steps to improve mental health services.

As welcome and important as these are, they run the risk of addressing the symptoms rather than the causes
of disparities.

Achieving parity in a sustainable way will only be possible if these improvements are accompanied by a
change in attitudes with the effect that:

• commissioners, providers and system leaders devote the same time, energy and resources to
improving mental health as they do to physical health (parity of attention);
• good mental health and the treatment of mental illness is valued in and of itself, as well as for the
contribution that it makes to people’s physical health, the economy or any other area (parity of value);
and
• patients, professionals and organisations have the same high standards and expectations of mental
healthcare as for physical healthcare (parity of expectations).

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