“The impact of the pandemic on health systems, the worsening economy and associated high rates of unemployment, the widespread social restrictions and quarantining, and the constant presentation of confronting news messages from the media are unprecedented challenges for communities and the mental health of its members.” -Agteren et al. (2020)
It is no secret that the covid-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on everyone’s physical, mental, and emotional health. And, while we have been trying to understand its implications and the subsequent coping on an individual level, it is also of utmost importance to explore community mental health and its role in individual mental health.
WAIT..WHAT IS COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH NOW?
In a nutshell, community mental health refers to the mental health of a community that comprises of various individuals with shared qualities. Community mental health also looks at the interaction between an individual and their societal environment. Here, health and well-being of every individual member as well as the health and well-being of entire community is investigated.
BUT WHAT MAKES ALL OF US A COMMUNITY? LIKE WHO DECIDES WE ARE A COMMUNITY?
In general, individual with shared characteristics, or interests, or location comprise of a community. For instance, a community of individuals who identify themselves on LGBTQ+ spectrum, or a community of individuals who are diagnosed with PCOS. A community can also be a group of people united through common struggle and similar stories, which is highly relevant in the present context. 1.38 billion people in same geographic location, struggling and trying to survive a life-threatening global pandemic.
OKAY SO WE ALL AS A COMMUNITY ARE STRUGGLING WITH OUR MENTAL HEALTH. HOW DOES IT HELP OUR INDIVDUAL MENTAL HEALTH?
While the community as a whole is going through a traumatic event, the individual members of the community are feeling validated, acknowledged and heard. Members are reaching out to each other, and providing with support in whatever way possible (therapeutic support, medical services such as oxygen, injections, hospital beds). Being part of a community also promotes hope and resilience. Shared experiences has also promoted more accessibility and acceptance of needing mental health services. It is because of a community shared experience, that we see more and more people reaching out for mental health services than before.
Being part of a community not only provides and individual with more resources to cope with, but also helps in minimizing the struggles faced in the first place.
A community provides with three elements namely: sense of belongingness, support, and purpose. These pillars give a strong foundation for the individual members of the community.
THAT IS REALLY INTERESTING….AND HOW DO WE TAKE CARE OF THE MENTAL HEALTH OF AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY?
Various services and help that the individual members provide to each other play a great role in managing community mental health. Moreover, resources such as support groups, interventions, healthcare infrastructure also have a notable contribution when it comes to preserving the mental health of a community.
The present pandemic is something none of us anticipated, and it almost feels like a betrayal from the nature itself. And while, it is distressing to see so much despair around, there is also a sense of comfort that can be drawn from the idea you are part of a group of people who understand and share your feelings and struggle.
Stay safe, take care.
By Ms. Rinkle Jain
Ms. Rinkle Jain is an aspiring psychologist-in-training (M.A. Clinical Psychology). She has an unmatched enthusiasm for writing, and research. She is passionate about Mental Health Advocacy and believes in addressing the role of social and political systems when working with mental health care. She is also a strong advocate of research, ethics, and proactive learning in her approach to Psychology, and hopes to create a safe, inclusive, and empathetic space for her future clientele.
Bond, L. (2001). Community Psychology. Campus Compact. Retrieved from: https://compact.org/resource-posts/community-psychology/#:~:text=Community%20psychology%20is%20the%20branch,affects%20individual%20and%20community%20functioning.&text=Its%20members%20are%20committed%20to,communities%2C%20groups%2C%20and%20individuals
Guillebeau, C. (2009). What makes a community? Chris Guillebeau. Retrieved from: https://chrisguillebeau.com/what-makes-a-community/
Gilbert, S. (2019). The importance of Community and Mental Health. National Alliance on Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2019/The-Importance-of-Community-and-Mental-Health
Kumar, T. M. (2020). Community mental health services in India: The pandemic and beyond. Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry, 36(5), 168.
Van Agteren, J., Bartholomaeus, J., Fassnacht, D. B., Iasiello, M., Ali, K., Lo, L., & Kyrios, M. (2020). Using internet-based psychological measurement to capture the deteriorating community mental health profile during COVID-19: observational study. JMIR mental health, 7(6).