A collaborative approach to community mental wellbeing – a scoping review

Nicholas Powell, Hazel Dalton, David A Perkins

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report (public)

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The idea of thriving communities is central to governmental policy at local, state and national levels. Yet a community cannot thrive if the local citizens suffer from poor mental health. Therefore, good mental health and wellbeing should be central to any community development plan. Community wellbeing features in the action plans of many local governments both nationally and internationally, however guidance around best practices for mental health initiatives is often not standardised or easily accessible to local policymakers. This review describes evidence from the literature about community wellbeing initiatives and community empowerment.
Community wellbeing is a multifaceted phenomenon. Moreover, what a ‘well’ community looks like will differ greatly according to context. This makes addressing community wellbeing an issue that is too complex for a single organisation or centralised government to address on a meaningful scale. Local,
tailored and collaborative measures, therefore, may be the ideal solution to improve wellbeing in community settings. This ‘bottom-up’ approach to community development can assist with engagement and is more likely to contribute toward empowerment than a ‘top-down’ approach. The most appropriate role of national bodies, therefore, is to enable and facilitate initiatives driven by local organisations and individuals rather than the implementation of paternalistic programs.
A coalition of enthusiastic local stakeholders is often the driving force behind community initiatives. This often takes the form of a steering committee which is tasked with managing the design, implementation and evaluation of the initiative. A steering committee can enable parties from across the community to
contribute to the direction of the initiative and allows interagency collaboration in terms of resources. The steering committee can be the forum to use feedback from the community to develop and refine a vision and plan for the initiative. In the literature, these plans usually involve mentally healthy activities, social engagement, education and increased access to services. Initiatives were most successful when they responded directly to the community’s wishes. Sometimes, stakeholders and committee members may work in the community as or through champions, volunteers and mentors. It is important that the people in these roles have the networks, skills and position to facilitate change in their community
There is a large body of research available to policymakers and community members about community engagement, community empowerment and program implementation. There is a large body of research on social capital cohesion, collective impact and capacity building. There is a growing literature on what it means to be mentally healthy. This report presents the findings of a scoping review of the literature that draws these three fields together in order to provide guidance and recommendations for communities who seek to cooperatively improve wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNewcastle, NSW
PublisherUniversity of Newcastle
Commissioning bodyMental Health Commission of New South Wales
Number of pages42
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


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