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Beyond Surviving to Thriving: The Case for a ‘Compassion towards Thriving’ Approach in Public Mental Health Ethics

Bielby, Phil



In this article, I argue for a novel understanding of compassion—what I call a ‘compassion towards thriving’ approach—to inform public mental health ethics. The argument is developed through two main parts. In the first part, I develop an account of compassion towards thriving that builds upon Martha Nussbaum’s philosophical work on compassion. This account expands the ambit of compassion from a focus on the alleviation of existing suffering to the prevention of potential future suffering through the facilitation of personal growth based on a ‘psychosocial’ understanding of mental health. In the second part of the article, I discuss the aims of public mental health and examine compassion towards thriving’s normative synergies with existing approaches in public health ethics. I explain how compassion towards thriving supports a vision of public health ethics which is concerned with solidarity, social justice and flourishing. I then apply this compassion towards thriving approach to evaluate the ‘Every Mind Matters’ public mental health campaign in England, highlighting its affinities with the ethos of the campaign. I also identify and explain two ways in which the application of a compassion towards thriving approach could enhance its delivery.


Bielby, P. (2021). Beyond Surviving to Thriving: The Case for a ‘Compassion towards Thriving’ Approach in Public Mental Health Ethics. Public Health Ethics,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 26, 2021
Online Publication Date Aug 19, 2021
Publication Date Aug 19, 2021
Deposit Date Aug 21, 2021
Publicly Available Date Aug 20, 2023
Journal Public Health Ethics
Print ISSN 1754-9973
Electronic ISSN 1754-9981
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Article Number phab023
Keywords Health Policy; Issues, ethics and legal aspects
Public URL


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