Drawing on the notion of “mental health policy participation”, the purpose of this paper is to describe and reflect on a regional case study of a community engagement approach that explored community perspectives on mental health and the factors that influence it. It established three expectations, that: the development of the Dumfries and Galloway Public Mental Health Strategy is informed by project outputs; services and innovations are based on what people want; active involvement of local people in decision making around mental health services and strategy is achieved.
A “participatory appraisal” approach was used to engage with communities. A three-day “Training of Trainers” exercise was undertaken. These individuals then accessed a number of community groups. Data collection was based on five key questions. A total of 443 were engaged in the process. Insights were reviewed by 20 stakeholders from a range of services to identify key actions. This led to the development of the mental health forum and, in turn, a Public Mental Health Strategy for Dumfries and Galloway. Community members were further included in processes through feedback mechanisms.
Factors of resilience, support of families and friends, social inclusion, access to social and leisure opportunities were most important. This was followed by structural issues like fear of judgement, lack of transport, discrimination and financial support. Finally, individual factors (sleep, meaningful hobbies and health) were highlighted.
This approach sought to go beyond a traditional focus to explore broader community perspectives on mental health and the factors that influence it.
Thirlwall, C. and Whitelaw, S. (2020), "Utilising community engagement approaches to influence public mental health policy in a rural setting", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 169-178. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMH-07-2018-0045
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