New online course for strengthening community mental health resilience

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The Cobra Collective is proud to announce the launch of its freely available OpenLearnCreate course on community mental health resilience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to increasing demand for mental health services while also highlighting the key role that mental health plays in our daily lives. “Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being,” as expressed by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated economic recession, experiences of bereavement, isolation, high fear and uncertainty or loss of livelihoods, have had negative impacts on many people’s mental health. For example, there have been strong increases in the reporting of substance use disorders, insomnia and anxiety1. However, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, over one billion people globally struggled with mental health issues such as depression, substance misuse and self-harm. This is especially important in the Global South where mental health services have a very fragmented delivery due to the cultural stigma and lack of infrastructure and capacity. Guyana, for example, is one of the countries with the highest suicide rate globally2.

The ARCLIGHT project focused on developing community mental health resilience within three communities in Guyana through digital storytelling. Community mental health resilience could be defined as the ability of a community to cope and adapt to challenges by taking advantage of, and enhancing, local assets, such as local capacity, social support, beneficial relationships, and community resources.

The project used a strengths-based approach, which emerges from observations that challenges within a community can be better solved by identifying positive practices from within that community and trying to promote their use, as opposed to focusing on behaviours that are negative and trying to fix them with solutions that have emerged from outside of the community. The project invited participants to share positive examples of mental health resilience and overcoming adversity within their communities. Through a participatory digital storytelling process, community members recorded their own stories and shared them using DIY networks that made the stories freely available throughout their community. For an example of how the project was implemented, the Indigenous community of Yupukari have recorded this short video about their experiences.

In order to further help tackle the escalating mental health challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have produced an online course that shows the process of setting up a community mental health intervention and shares valuable lessons learnt from the ARCLIGHT project. The course is aimed at individuals working at community level, such as health and social care practitioners, that are keen to promote existing positive community mental health practices and help transform the dominant community mindset from one that is negative to one that appreciates the good that is present in one’s community.  The course is now freely available via the Open University’s OpenLearn Create platform. The course gives an overview of the approach taken in the ARCLIGHT project and demonstrates how this can be adapted for communities in similar situations. It contains elements of understanding mental health especially from a community perspective in the Global South. It gives concrete examples of how community resilience was developed and instructions for how to use a participatory action research approach to achieve this. The course also provides an outline for how to create and share digital stories and finally, how to evaluate the effectiveness of any such community intervention.

References:

1: WHO (2020) COVID-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries.

2: WHO (2016) World Health Statistics data visualizations dashboard: Suicide

Julia Jung
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Marine Social Scientist

Julia holds an MSc in management of marine biological resources from the international IMBRSea programme (2020). She is interested in using participatory approaches and action research for community-based environmental management. Julia is also highly interested in the use of technology for outreach, innovation and teaching within communities and in higher education.