In hard economic times, the prevalence of potentially catastrophic financial events such as: job loss or foreclosure exacerbates preexisting mental health challenges and gives rise to new ones. Such challenges worsen further if a financial downturn persists over many months or years. It is well known that mental health problems are related to deprivation, poverty, inequality and other social and economic determinants of health. Economic crises are therefore times of high risk to the mental well-being of the population and of the people affected and their families.

An economic crisis affects the factors determining mental health. Protective factors such as job security, sense of control, social support at work and secure income predict good mental health of employees. Social capital is the quality of social relationships within societies or communities including; community networks, civic engagement, sense of belonging and norms of cooperation and trust.

Conversely, poverty, financial problems and social deprivation are major socioeconomic risk factors for mental health problems and disorders. In most Regions, alcohol consumption is negatively associated with population mental health. Alcohol consumption plays a considerable role in increasing suicide, especially among men. Mental health problems contribute significantly to inequality in health in the society.  Relatively high frequencies of common mental disorders are associated with poor education, material disadvantage and unemployment. Suicide is more common in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation, social fragmentation and unemployment. The greater vulnerability of the disadvantaged people in each community to mental health problems may be explained by such factors as the violence, crime, civil unrest, homelessness, unemployment, indebtedness, social isolation, poor housing, experience of insecurity and hopelessness.

The foundations of good mental health are laid during pregnancy, infancy and childhood. Abstaining from alcohol, substance use and smoking during pregnancy promotes a healthy start in life. Protection from childhood neglect and negative life events promotes mental health. Feeling respected, valued and supported, high-quality parenting and a positive relationship with an adult, promote positive mental health and resilience.  Mental health is promoted by holistic preparation for life in preschools and schools by providing social and emotional learning opportunities.

The health sector cannot achieve good mental health alone. The determinants of mental health are often outside the remit of the health system, and all government sectors have to be involved in promoting mental health.

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