Mental health issues in our communities, particularly for our youth, are complex and challenging, but by joining together and increasing our knowledge, understanding, and awareness, we can make a difference. By initiating conversations, we can break down misperceptions and promote recovery.
It is important to first identify what mental health resources currently exist in the community and determine what else is needed. Work with community members to map out what prevention strategies, treatment, and recovery support services currently exist and how they are meeting the needs of those served.
The following are a list of community factors that can influence mental health.
- Cultural norms – such as alcohol use, bullying
- Employment opportunity
- Food insecurity – not knowing where your next meal will come from
- Housing quality Income inequality
- Neighborhood conditions
- Physical isolation
- Public services
- Social status
- Access to health services
To assist with community planning and implementation, there are a variety of resources to identify the most effective approaches for the issues at hand. When choosing evidence-based approaches, it is important to identify and prioritize the needs of individuals and groups in the community so that you can determine which type of intervention, strategy, or approach will be the most appropriate. It is also important to assess the community’s capacity (e.g., financial resources, organizational commitment, community buy-in) to implement an intervention, strategy, or approach while preserving the components that made the original practice effective. Communities can work together to decide what interventions, strategies and approaches match the needs, and can be implemented within the community’s capacity.
Additional Suggestions for Community Planning
- Tailor your efforts to your community. Every community is different when it comes to developing the next steps in supporting their unique needs.
- Celebrate what has been done in your community to strengthen mental health. Every community is starting from a unique point with existing assets and resources. It is important to celebrate the things that are already taking place in your community.
- Highlight what work still needs to be done. There will always be more to do to support mental health and wellness. Take time to recognize how everyone in the community can pitch in and support.
- Describe what direction you plan to take as a community. Create a vision for how your community will address its mental health needs.
- Keep working together. Effective efforts to address mental health require the need to form and sustain partnerships from many different parts of the community. Community conversation meetings should be considered just the start of an on-going dialogue to plan, implement, and evaluate efforts.
The mental health community includes many critical and outstanding organizations all sharing common goals of establishing or improving the prevention of mental illnesses, promotion of mental health and wellness, public education and awareness, early identification, treatment, crisis response, and recovery. Below are some of those organizations, along with links to learn more.
- Founded in 1909, Mental Health America is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all
- NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness
- The National Institute of Mental Health is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation and to improve the lives of individuals living with mental and substance use disorders, and their families.
- Founded in 1979 ADAA is an international nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through education, practice, and research
- The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a leading national organization focusing on mood disorders including depression and bipolar disorder, which affect over 21 million Americans, account for over 50% of the nation’s suicides every year, and cost $23 billion in lost workdays and other workplace losses
- In the US, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The National Eating Disorders Association is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders.
- PTSD Alliance is an association of advocacy and professional organizations for individuals suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Alliance members have made it their mission to increase awareness of this common and serious health condition to PTSD sufferers, their families, and the general public
- Established in 1987, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a voluntary health organization that gives those affected by suicide a nationwide community empowered by research, education, and advocacy to take action against this leading cause of death
- 1.8 million LGBTQ young people seriously consider suicide each year. The Trevor Project’s mission is to be there for every single one
- The Jason Foundation is dedicated to the prevention of the “silent epidemic” of youth suicide through educational and awareness programs that equip young people, educators/youth workers, and parents with the tools and resources to help identify and assist at-risk youth