The 20-page discussion guide, Community Conversations About Mental Health (2013), was sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services. This guide was prepared for SAMHSA by Abt Associates and its subcontractors, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and Everyday Democracy. In the guide are instructions for hosting and facilitating community dialogues around mental health issues today and especially for young people; how to identify challenges and what ways to support youth mental health. The beginning of the toolkit includes an Informational Brief section with facts regarding mental health, then there is a Discussion Guide section and finally, a Planning Guide section with facilitator tips.
Below is an excerpt of the guide and it can be found in full for free download, in both English and Spanish at the bottom of the page. To view the original posting on SAMHSA’s site, click here.
From the guide…
On January 16, 2013, President Barack Obama directed Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education to launch a national conversation on mental health to reduce the shame and secrecy associated with mental illness, encourage people to seek help if they are struggling with mental health problems, and encourage individuals whose friends or family are struggling to connect them to help.
Mental health problems affect nearly every family. Yet as a nation, we have too often struggled to have an open and honest conversation about these issues. Misperceptions, fears of social consequences, discomfort associated with talking about these issues with others, and discrimination all tend to keep people silent. Meanwhile, if they get help, most people with mental illnesses can and do recover and lead happy, productive, and full lives.
This national conversation will give Americans a chance to learn more about mental health issues. People across the nation are planning community conversations to assess how mental health problems affect their communities and to discuss topics related to the mental health of young people. In so doing, they may also decide how they might take steps to improve mental health in their families, schools, and communities. This could include a range of possible steps to establish or improve prevention of mental illnesses, promotion of mental health, public education and awareness, early identification, treatment, crisis response, and recovery supports available in their communities.
Goals and Objectives of the Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health
The Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health is designed to help individuals and organizations who want to organize community conversations achieve three potential objectives:
– Get others talking about mental health to break down misperceptions and promote recovery and healthy communities;
– Find innovative community-based solutions to mental health needs, with a focus on helping young people; and
– Develop clear steps for communities to address their mental health needs in a way that complements existing local activities.
The Toolkit includes:
1. An Information Brief section that provides data and other facts regarding mental health and mental illness and how communities can improve prevention of mental illnesses, promotion of mental health, public education and awareness, early identification, treatment, crisis response, and recovery supports available in their communities.
2. A Discussion Guide section that is intended for use in holding community conversation meetings of 8-12 people each. (In a community forum with more participants, the audience would divide into groups of this size for much of their time together.) It provides discussion questions, sample views, ideas, and an overall structure for dialogue and engagement on mental health issues.
3. A Planning Guide section that describes a variety of ways in which people can facilitate their community conversations and take next steps at the local level to raise awareness about mental health and promote access to mental health services.
Mental health issues in our communities—particularly for our youth—are complex and challenging; but, by coming together and increasing our understanding and raising awareness, we can make a difference.
To download the guide in full click the link below.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
Follow on Twitter: @
Resource Link [in English]: community_conversations_about_mental_health
Resource Link [in Spanish]: dialogos_comunitarios_acerca_de_la_salud_mental