Mental health in the community

Local councils have a social obligation to ensure space for open and honest discussions at the community level to foster a general sense of social acceptance vis-à-vis mental health.

In a world increasingly shaped and dominated by digital systems, the significance of the support that communities can provide for mental well-being cannot be overlooked. While professional assistance and medication undoubtedly remain crucial, what emerges from human interaction facilitated in a community support context is of paramount importance.

How can the impact of a cohesive and tolerant community, along with experiences that can easily be shared among us, lead to the establishment of a foundation with a healthy level of emotional resilience?

The need for us to connect effectively

Human beings inherently have a need and a desire to connect and feel a sense of belonging to something or someone. When social bonds are strong, they not only fulfill emotional, social, and psychological needs but also serve as a buffer against life’s many challenges. In moments of stress, anxiety, or depression, you feel safe knowing that there are members in the community where you live who can give you courage and provide support independently of the obligations towards their own families. This support doesn’t only come from immediate family but also from genuine friends who want to be there for you and listen to what you have to say.

Reducing stigma and isolation

Certainly, one of the biggest obstacles to seeking help for mental health issues is the fear of isolation and stigma. Therefore, it is crucial that communities have platforms that facilitate discussions and exchange of experiences to overcome this barrier and encourage more people to seek help before it’s too late. When a person feels supported and realises they are not alone, they are more comfortable seeking help and talking about the problems they are facing. This leads to open, honest, and mature conversations so that the individual feels a sense of belonging to that community as well.

A sense of belonging

Being part of a community contributes to one’s self-esteem, ultimately enabling a person to truly believe in their own value. This understanding stems from the fact that others take an interest in how one feels, their challenges, and therefore, this sense of belonging sends a powerful message that even in the face of significant challenges, everyone is valid and capable of succeeding in the life they choose to live. When a person feels valued and accepted, it’s more likely that they’ll develop a conviction about the importance of self-evaluation and the significance of embracing and accepting who they are.

Experiences and empathy

The strength of community support emerges from the sharing of experiences and empathy that members of the same community can offer to one another. When individuals facing similar challenges and problems come together and talk, they provide immense support to each other, extending beyond mere sympathy. This leads to a sense of not feeling alone because more than just seeing a community “sympathise” with these individuals, we witness an empathetic community ready to listen, understand, and care. This sensitivity reinforces the belief of individuals seeking help that there are indeed those interested in them and that there are people in the community willing to provide all necessary assistance without passing judgment on their past or present. This also contributes to the creation of a more resilient and interconnected community, where one person’s challenges are everyone’s challenges.

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Emotion and resilience

Community support serves as a stable “anchor” during times of emotional upheaval, fostering a safe space for individuals to express their feelings and receive empathy in return. This exchange not only offers emotional relief but also demonstrates resilience in action, as individuals navigate through challenging periods. Such platforms play a crucial role in promoting empathy and showcasing practical examples of resilience. Moreover, sharing experiences allows for collective learning, contributing to a deeper understanding of resilience within the community and empowering individuals to tackle challenges effectively.

How can a local council involve itself in all of this?

To address stigma, open and honest discussions at the community level are necessary to foster a general sense of acceptance for mental health. Local councils, through various platforms, have a social obligation to the community to ensure space for this process. This can also be achieved through campaigns within society. When an individual feels comfortable speaking about their experiences on one of these platforms, it fosters a tremendous sense of acceptance and personal development. Local councils should not retreat from this responsibility by merely paying lip service, as doing so would only perpetuate the problem. Instead, they should act as catalysts to ensure they embrace the true meaning of inclusivity in the community.

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Let’s explore a welcoming environment

To support individuals facing these challenges, it’s essential to create a welcoming environment where they feel safe to speak up and share their experiences. This encouragement empowers them to become active members of the community, free from prejudice or stigma, rather than feeling excluded and isolated. Such an environment fosters confidence, enabling individuals to step out of their comfort zones and contribute to the broader community. By reducing negative attitudes and discrimination, we can stand in solidarity with these individuals and collectively build a more inclusive society.


Communities can function as central hubs for mental health resources, bringing together various stakeholders such as professionals, experts, individuals with lived experience, and relevant organisations. When a local council effectively coordinates these parties, it optimises resource utilisation and increases awareness about mental health issues. This collaborative effort results in a wider array of tools available to support those seeking help, ultimately improving the likelihood of successful outcomes.


Once individuals have been equipped with essential information on accessing support, a welcoming environment has been established, communication platforms have been set up, and resources have been pooled, the focus can shift to facilitating direct engagement. Organising community activities not only makes individuals feel valued but also integrates them into the fabric of the community. These activities offer chances to connect with new people, potentially from diverse backgrounds, and promote collaboration within and across localities. This collaborative approach can extend regionally, strengthening the sector and enhancing support networks.

Digital communities

As local leaders, we must also consider the possibility that individuals may choose or prefer to seek assistance online. It is imperative to recognise this trend, as it may indicate a growing segment of our community who feel more comfortable seeking help in this manner. Moreover, it underscores the importance of ensuring that any platforms, activities, or environments we create prioritise virtual accessibility for these community members. This approach can also support those who may lack access to other resources. By implementing robust online support systems and fostering a secure digital environment, we can better serve our community and adapt to evolving needs.


As we can see, community support and engagement are crucial in addressing this challenge of mental health. It’s essential for interaction, understanding each other better, sharing our experiences, maximizing our limited resources, and affirming human dignity for all.

I believe that local and regional councils play an important role in all of this, and I hope that we can work together with experts in the field to establish a safe, supportive, and empathetic framework where more people feel comfortable stepping forward and seeking help. The Association of Local Councils will be exploring how it can facilitate and initiate these community services, with the assistance and involvement of experts in the field.

Mario Fava is President of the Local Councils Association

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