Untapped potential? Action by non-governmental organisations on the social determinants of mental health in high income countries: an integrative review

Johanna Cresswell-Smith , Anna K. Macintyre, Kristian Wahlbeck

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Civil society in general is widely recognised as having an important role in addressing the social determinants of health. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a long history of mental health actions, ranging from mental health promotion and advocacy to volunteer work and service provision. An explicit focus on the social determinants of mental health is a more recent development. In this article we review relevant literature on NGO actions on key social determinants of mental health: family; friends and communities; education and skills; good work; money and resources; housing; and surroundings. Searching of relevant bibliographic databases was combined with searching for relevant grey literature to identify relevant evidence and practice on the work of NGOs in this field. We reflect on the inherent tensions involved in understanding the role of NGOs in taking action on the social determinants of mental health and the critical questions raised as a result. Our review highlights a lack of documented evidence of NGO actions, and underscores the significant untapped potential of civil society to contribute to the Mental Health in All Policies (MHiAP) agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalVoluntary Sector Review
Early online date18 May 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 May 2020


  • NGO
  • civil society
  • mental health
  • mental health promotion
  • social determinants

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