Together through tough times: a qualitative study of community resilience to protect against mental health issues in the UK

Kris Southby*, Tim Bidey, Duncan Grimes, Zoe Khor, Jane South, Anne Marie Bagnall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Living in an area experiencing economic and social disadvantage is a known risk factor to poor mental health and well-being. This paper aims to understand how some communities experiencing disadvantage appear to be more resilient to the enduring challenges they face and display better mental health outcomes. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative case study approach was used. Semi-structured interviews (total = 74) were undertaken remotely with residents (n = 39) and voluntary, community and social enterprise groups, community leaders and other local stakeholders (n = 35) in four case study areas. Data analysis was cross-case, thematic analysis. Community analysis workshops (n = 4) and resilience mapping workshops (n = 4) in each site corroborated emerging insights. Findings: Four overlapping and interacting themes support community resilience: community hubs and local voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) networks; opportunities to participate and make connections within communities; open and supportive environments to talk about mental health and well-being; and community identities and collective narratives. Differences in access to these resources was a cross-cutting theme. Originality/value: Community resilience can be understood in terms of the amount of resources – articulated in terms of capital – that communities can draw on in response to challenges, and how well these resources are mobilised. A thriving VCSE sector is important for community resilience in communities experiencing disadvantage as a mechanism for both sustainably building and mobilising community resources in the face of daily and enduring challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Public Mental Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the following people for their contribution to the research: Erin Mee (Mind), Jacob Diggle (Mind), Vicki Nash (Mind); Kerry Davis (Mind); Naomi Hayes (Co-op); Sophie Corlett (Mind); Suzanne Martin (SAMH), Michelle Howorth (Inspire), Sophie Wozmirska (Co-op), and Euan Millard (SAMH). They would also like to thank the local community organisations and members of the public who participated in the research. Funding: Funding for this research was provided through a competitive tendering process led by Mind, SAMH, and Inspire, made possible through their charity partnership with Co-op. The funders designed the research brief and, as members of the research support and challenge group, had three points of input into the research: during inception to inform and sense check the research design, including the sampling for site selection, and data collection methods and tools; following data collection to discuss emergent findings; and prior to reporting to review key messages and proposed routes to actions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Community resilience
  • Disadvantage
  • Inequalities
  • Social capital
  • Voluntary and community sector


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