Having a sense of community is important for mental health. It provides a safe place where people can connect with others, receive support and feel empowered to make positive changes.
Community-based mental health care includes crisis services, treatment, housing and sheltered employment. It’s also cost-effective and respectful of people’s human rights.
1. Sense of Belonging
The sense of belonging that comes with being part of a community is crucial to mental health. It provides a cohort of people who have your back, are there for support and understanding when things get tough, and can help you find solutions.
Belonging is the feeling of inclusion and identity with a group, which can be as small as a school class or as large as a church congregation. It is one of the many human needs identified by psychologist Abraham Maslow, who argued that individuals can only pursue cognitive, aesthetic and self-actualization needs after satisfying basic physical, safety, belonging and esteem needs.
Often, those with mental health issues feel a sense of isolation and loneliness that is difficult to overcome. Having a strong sense of belonging in a community can provide the reassurance needed to try new experiences like seeking professional mental health care, as well as making it easier to open up and share intimate details with your therapist.
2. Sense of Community
As human beings, we are innately social creatures. Having a strong sense of community is crucial to our mental health and well-being. Communities can be made up of people with similar interests, like a film studies group or cooking club, or they may simply offer a space where individuals can openly discuss their mental health.
In our study, those with a very weak sense of community belonging had more than three times the odds of reporting poor self-rated general and mental health when compared to those with a very strong sense of community. We also found that those with a somewhat weak sense of community were more than twice as likely to report poor self-rated mental health.
Creating communities where individuals can freely talk about their mental health and share experiences is an important first step in breaking the stigma around mental health. Additionally, communities can help guide individuals toward mental health services that are appropriate for their needs.
3. Sense of Support
People who have a strong sense of community often have a large group of people that they can turn to for support when times are tough. This can help to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, which is important for mental health recovery.
Being a part of a community can also give a person a sense of purpose by helping them to contribute to the well-being of other members of that community. This can be in the form of being an active member of a charity, volunteering, or even just being someone that others know they can count on for helpful advice.
Communities can be created based on shared interests, hobbies, lived experiences, or backgrounds. Regardless of how the community is formed, it can be an important source of support for people with mental health problems. This can help them to maintain their relationships, jobs and families while receiving treatment. Additionally, it can help to reduce the stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds mental illness.
4. Sense of Purpose
As part of a community, you can openly discuss mental health issues and find support in dealing with them. This sense of security allows you to be more willing to try new things like seeing a therapist, which can help improve your mental health.
Sense of purpose is one trait that many people find difficult to define, but studies show it predicts a huge range of life outcomes, from subjective well-being and adherence to healthy behaviors to income and net worth, satisfaction with romantic relationships and even mortality risk. It is also important for mental health, because it reduces stress levels by lowering cortisol production and makes us less reactive.
You can start to develop a sense of purpose by thinking about your desired achievements, short-term and long-term goals, and your past experiences. You can also find a sense of purpose by looking at what you value in life and the world around you. For example, helping others can give you a sense of purpose, while spending time with family and friends can strengthen your bond.