World Happy Day

I am currently co- developing a new Mental Health and Wellbeing service in the Royal Borough of Greenwich in partnership with Greenwich Mind and Greenwich NHS. The project will act as a service umbrella, extending partnerships with existing services and paving the way for new interventions that build personal and social resilience, underpinned by positive psychology theory and practice.

A key aim is to identify and address the languishing members of the population who do not fit the criteria for a mental illness diagnosis yet they are unable to motivate or find a sense of purpose or direction in life. Languishing is the absence of mental health and is a recognized disorder that exists on the mental health continuum (Keyes, 2002). Figures currently show that at least 1/6 people in Greenwich are languishing and approximately  1/3 have a low-level mental health symptom such as fatigue or sleep problems  (APHR 2008, JSNA 2009-2010). People in the languishing category are perceived to be at a higher risk of developing disorder or mental illness.

As Mental Health has now been recognized as not just the absence of mental illness but as a ‘complete state consisting of two dimensions’ (Keyes, 2002), these two separate strands are recognized as the Mental Illness Continuum and the Mental Health Continuum. Although existing as separate dimensions, they do of course inter-relate. This has led to a further recognition that the study of improving mental health is a vital and valid area in the development of population flourishing.

However, the remit of the project is still very broad.  Sign-posting may also include those who have received a mental illness diagnosis and, although they have followed a diagnostic service pathway, may yet need further support to step down towards interventions that focus on mental health recovery. The service is also being designed to attract the wider population as research suggests that the majority of people who go on to develop a disorder generally come from the wider population with only a small percentage of the total originating from the high risk languishing group (Rose, 1992,2008).

Due to the often undifferentiated meaning afforded to the terms mental health and mental illness, when used interchangeably, a lack of clarity can result which in some cases perpetuates even further the stigma surrounding mental illness. It is possible to have a high level of mental health whilst also having a mental illness! Another facet of the project will include social contact opportunities that tackle the subject through creative workshops and training.

The world happiness day provided a great opportunity to focalize some of the developments in the project start up and to consolidate some of the agreed partnership services operating under the new service umbrella. A screening was organized at the Greenwich Picture House in the informal screen 5 venue. Representatives of other organizations, Government Departments and Health Officials were invited to attend a screening of the Happiness film. Rather than go with the 11th we opted for the 10th as it was during the working week but offered a gentle and relaxed Friday afternoon. Considering the weather, it also offered a cozy retreat from the cold and sleet.

We were fortunate to have Vanessa King from Action for Happiness who gave a very informative presentation depicting some of the relevant issues that were highlighted in the ‘Happy’ film. The presentation and the film provided an ideal forum to encourage a dialogue around some of the issues of clarifying the terms mental health and mental illness especially in relation to understanding the languishing disorder. It also initiated an inspiring open debate to consult with other front line services to consider ways of addressing the wider and not always visible population for who languishing is a very real and debilitating malaise. It also brought into view other avenues for applying the flourishing ideology.

The diagram below (Huppert et al., 2005) was included in the presentation given by Vanessa and shows the effects of shifting the mean of the mental health spectrum. Even a small change in population symptoms and psychological resources can have a large impact on the percentage of those languishing and/or with a recognized disorder. Equally the percentage of flourishing population can also increase and evidence suggests that a universal approach can also effect a reduction in total numbers of long-term common mental health disorders (Huppert 2009).

Author’s Bio

Carole Stagg has over 15 years experience of project development and management Including Be creative Be well, a partner of the wider Well London project.  Her focus is to work with individuals, communities and organisations to support and encourage positive change towards evolutionary transformation.

A life-long learner, Carole has a background in creative arts and design, Steiner Waldorf teaching, therapeutic and educational practice to name a few.

She works as a freelance consultant in the field of creative wellbeing in association with a number of organisations to develop projects, design creative workshops and training. She is currently in the process of setting up a community interest company and enjoys working collaboratively and across disciplines.

She also facilitates mindfulness courses, plays the piano accordion and swims for charity.


To gauge any possible benefit of improving SWB from showing the film within the context of a small event, an instant reaction data exercise was introduced both pre and post the screening and debate. We can see from the line graph below a definite shift in the audience subjective wellbeing from participating in the event .The graph shows a positive   correlation from which, we can infer that the film helped the participants reach what it might feel like to be in a flourishing state.

Instant reaction feedback from Happy Event

The positive mental health and wellbeing project is currently in the process of being refined. Having recently commissioned a social marketing company to engage members of the Greenwich populace to input into the design, identity and branding of the service, we aim to fully launch the service in early summer.



Keyes, C.L.M (2002). The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and social behaviour,43,207-222.

Huppert, F.A., (2009). Psychological Well-being: Evidence regarding its causes and consequences. Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing, 1 (2) 137-164.

Huppert, F. A., Baylis, N. & Keverne, B.(2005). The Science of Well Being . Oxford University Press: UK.

Rose G. (1992).The strategy of preventive medicine . Oxford University Press: UK.

Rose, G. (2008). Rose’s strategy of preventive medicine (2nd edn., revised). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Greenwich Joint strategic Needs Assessment (Updated PDF available online)

Greenwich Annual Public Health Report (2008)

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