Community-Based Psychosocial Support Groups

Challenges: Crises affect mental health, lack of access to formalised clinical care

Nowadays, people are experiencing various crises, from the COVID-19 pandemic, to ongoing conflict, and climate change. Crises expose people to a huge amount of stress adversely affecting mental health, both in terms of intergenerational trauma in post-colonial societies as well as public mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and so forth. At the same time, there is a substantial lack of access to mental health care worldwide, partly due to a shortage of trained clinical professionals, leading to people suffering silently from possibly debilitating experiences. Poor mental health limits people’s quality of life and participation in society and democracy. We therefore encourage local community leadership to implement community-based psychosocial support groups incorporating local and indigenous practices as a means to reaching more people in need of support.

Proposal: Community-based psychosocial support groups incorporating local and indigenous practices

We propose to address this important societal challenge through the establishment of community-based psychosocial support groups adapted to local contexts and taking into account local and indigenous practices. These can be focussed, for example, on themes such as grief and loss, the artistic expression of trauma, shared concerns, or neighbourhood collectives. Community-based psychosocial support groups are facilitated by trained community members. This could include currently unused human capital such as students of psychology or social work, but also other community members wishing to undergo training to facilitate psychosocial support groups. Ultimately, community-based psychosocial support groups must be attentive to the unique objectives, goals, and needs of affected communities.

Impact: Increased access to non-formal care, strengthening empathy and societal cohesion

Scaling up community-based psychosocial support groups effectively addresses public mental health issues and increases access to non-formal care services so that no one in society is left behind. This approach, employing the potential of local communities, can also strengthen empathy and societal cohesion and support political participation through healing and empowerment. We want to stress, however, that, while mental health is an important prerequisite to societal participation, it is not only an instrument to the process of democratisation, but valuable in its own right.