S17: A Collaborative Approach to Community Wellbeing

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By September 4, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Nicholas Powell, Hazel Dalton

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: A Collaborative Approach to Community Wellbeing

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Nicholas Powell is a research assistant at the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH). He has a diverse range of research experience and interest. He has spent the past two years developing the idea of community wellbeing initiatives through working with communities and examining the broader evidence.

Dr. Hazel Dalton is the research leader at the CRRMH. She is interested in translational research, providing evidence to support programs and inform policy. She has extensive and diverse research experience across university and health sectors, with skills in conceptual modelling, quantitative and qualitative research approaches.

Community mental health and wellbeing is complex and multifactorial. We favour a local, collaborative approach which can bring together the necessary networks, resources, skills and experience to make a meaningful impact on the wellbeing of a community.

We have worked with rural several communities who have developed and are developing wellbeing initiatives in their area. These groups include the Lithgow Mental Health Taskforce, in the Central Tablelands of NSW, Muswellbrook Healthy and Well, in the Hunter Valley, and Our Healthy Clarence, on the northern coast of NSW. These coalitions are composed of local community members, service providers, health service representatives, council, and NGOs and are tasked with creating and enacting a mental health and wellbeing plan, based on the will and needs of the community.

In the remit of each of these community collaboratives is a commitment to improve the quality of life for the local people, through action and advocacy. This means that these communities are striving to build on what already makes people mentally healthy, and are working to decrease the impact of the conditions that erode mental health.

We have combined the experience from these initiatives with evidence published on other similar initiatives to create a guide for communities who wish to develop a wellbeing initiative. The guide splits action into four iterative stages: purpose and rationale, plan with partners, implement and engage, and embed and evaluate. Key throughout the whole initiative is the need for community consultation, participation, representation and, ideally, ownership. There is good evidence to suggest that empowerment and sustainability are influenced by the level of community involvement. We will discuss the role we think wellbeing initiatives can have in developing a socially integrated community, promoting positive mental health, and reducing the incidence of mental illness and suicide. Ultimately, many of the factors that go into building a well community are context dependent. In the workshop, we wish to learn the view of the participants when it comes to taking steps towards community wellbeing, gauging wellbeing and progress, building a coalition, and where responsibilities lie when it comes to community building and wellbeing.

Brief agenda (topics will be based on the issues listed above)
15 mins - Setting the context and presentation of our guide
15 mins - Presentation on wellbeing + discussion on community wellbeing, what it means, how to measure it etc.
15 mins - Presentation on collaboration + discussion on collaboration, actions, methods of practice etc.
15 mins - Open discussion and questions (including open menti feedback)

Participants will be given the chance in the discussions respond to the issues raised in the presentation and to share their own experiences and reflections on these.

In summary, we believe that community collaboratives can have an influence on the mental health and wellbeing of the local population through approaches that foster community involvement and are responsive to the will and needs of the community.

Learning Objectives

Learning Objective 1: Participants will gain a perspective on rural community initiatives based on our research over the last three years. This will highlight facets of successful wellbeing initiatives such us bottom-up community agency and top-down support. We will highlight the components of these initiatives that have made them successful, with particular focus on the case studies we have conducted. This information is translatable, and may be used by participants as tools in their own community.

Learning Objective 2: Community wellbeing initiatives are based on prevention and promotion of mental health and wellbeing. They focus on the upstream determinants in the social environment on mental health and wellbeing and, in part, seek to improve these conditions, and thereby increase the quality of live of local citizens. These initiatives can also play a vital role in increasing the accessibility of pathways to care.


1. Hazell, T., Dalton, H., Caton, T., & Perkins, D. (2017). Rural Suicide and Its Prevention: A CRRMH Position Paper: Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, University of Newcastle.

2. Lasker, R. D., & Weiss, E. S. (2003). Broadening participation in community problem solving: a multidisciplinary model to support collaborative practice and research. Journal of Urban Health, 80(1), 14-47.

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