Seebohm, Patience, Gilchrist, Alison and Morris, David
Bold but balanced: How community development contributes to mental health and inclusion.
Community Development Journal, 47
This article explores the positive contribution that community development (CD) can make to mental well-being by providing close but critical support to individuals and community-led initiatives. The emphasis on self-determination, collective action and empowerment within the CD approach inspires hope and recovery from mental distress. Drawing on a recent study of CD practice across varied UK settings, we demonstrate how practitioners use their skills to break down barriers, build relationships, manage group dynamics and tackle prejudice. They ‘connect and include’ people experiencing mental health difficulties with community activities and mainstream services, increasing opportunity and choice. We note that a skilfully balanced, empathetic but bold CD approach requires professional capabilities, flexible management and participative forms of evaluation. It fits the current UK policy emphasis on empowerment and engagement and responds to the growing evidence that personal networks and social equality correlate with health and well-being. However, its impact tends to be limited by workplace context, insufficient resources and a failure by health providers and others to recognize its potential.