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

3 Citations (Scopus)


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

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.


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


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