NEWS8 November 2021

Local communities can help improve mental health

Covid-19 News UK Wellbeing

UK – Community resilience should be prioritised to help support people’s mental health in the aftermath of Covid-19, according to research by social purpose consultancy Traverse and Leeds Beckett University.

Mental health abstract image

The research, which was carried out for the report Together Through Tough Times, found that an “open door culture” helped people talk about mental wellbeing and reduce stigma.

The Co-op and mental health charities Mind, Inspire and the Scottish Association for Mental Health all partnered with Traverse on the research, and the research consisted of research in four locations: Bilston in England, Haverfordwest in Wales, Yoker in Scotland and Portadown in Northern Ireland.

The research, which took place online between the summer of 2020 and winter 2020/21, included semi-structured interviews undertaken with 39 residents across the four sites, eight community analysis workshops and resilience map workshops and interviews 35 representatives of local organisations, community leaders and local authorities.

The research found that community hubs and voluntary sector networks allowed people more access to mental health support and be more active locally, as well as building resilience to mental health issues.

Public spaces could also provide opportunities for people to build social connections, relax and reflect, while helping communities support their own and others’ resilience.

Community identities and shared narratives could also establish a sense of belonging and help people feel secure and connected, as well as assisting the community as a whole to overcome challenges together.

Some groups, such as children and young people, newcomers, people from ethnic minority backgrounds and people living in poverty, were at bigger risk of being left behind by their communities, as they had more limited access to the protective factors highlighted in the research.

Tim Bidey, senior consultant at Traverse, said: “The research highlights the importance of resilient communities in supporting people and their mental health, and its findings give a clear message that activity to support community resilience needs to be driven by locally defined needs rather than top-down initiatives.

“However, this does not mean that responsibility for resilience sits with residents and communities alone, particularly when systemic or historic factors may impact their efforts.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on all of us, especially those of us living with a mental health problem.

“From being able to spend time in parks and green spaces to being in touch with a community mutual aid group, or simply checking in on neighbours from a safe distance, we know that connections between people and places matter when looking after our mental health.”