Making Connections

A Movember Funded Project

STRONGER COMMUNITIES BY SUPPORTING MENTAL WELLBEING

STRONGER COMMUNITIES BY SUPPORTING MENTAL WELLBEING

Making Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys is a national initiative to strengthen communities to support mental wellbeing.

The Movember Foundation and Prevention Institute are partnering with 13 community-based coalitions that work with either men and boys of color, or military service members, veterans, and their families, in rural, urban, and suburban communities across the U.S. 

Making Connections coalitions are implementing community-level prevention strategies that reflect community priorities and needs and draw on each community’s culture, knowledge, and assets.

These strategies are improving neighborhood conditions, strengthening community resilience, and increasing social connectedness.

Background

Background

Mental distress threatens the wellbeing of men and boys in the U.S. and too often contributes to premature death, including death by suicide, among other causes.

For this initiative, we are focusing on these two particular groups because veterans and military service members are nearly twice as likely to take their own lives as non-veterans. Additionally, boys and men of color are more likely to experience poor mental health due to multi-generational trauma, higher exposure to poverty, and higher rates of incarceration. However, both groups have cultural strengths that can be tapped into to build their resilience against mental health challenges. They also respond well to peer-led supports in addition to community building through shoulder-to-shoulder activities.

Making Connections demonstrates that community-based approaches to improving the mental health and wellbeing of men and boys can make a difference that goes beyond individuals to affect entire communities.  

Taking an Upstream, Gendered Lens Approach

Taking an Upstream, Gendered Lens Approach

Making Connections interweaves a community-level prevention approach to improving mental health and wellbeing through a gendered lens.

This means that Making Connections sites’ programs have been developed in collaboration with men and adopt male-friendly approaches and preferences for engagement and delivery. This includes creating safe, male-friendly spaces and basing their programs on activities that are appealing to men. Sites are also working to deconstruct unhealthy norms about what it means to be a man—things like being discouraged from expressing emotions and feeling stressed for failing to meet certain expectations—and develop programs and policies that instill healthier norms like social connection, civic engagement, and equitable relationships.

By using a community-level prevention approach, the Making Connections community coalitions focus on the role that social, economic, and environmental factors play in shaping mental health and wellbeing for men and boys. This is designed to reduce the incidence and severity of mental health challenges by taking on issues like community safety, stable and affordable housing, access to educational and economic opportunities, and social connection—all of which are foundational to mental health and wellbeing.

Making Connections grew out of the detailed landscape report Making Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys in the U.S. by Prevention Institute.  The three Prevention Institute tools related to community-level prevention strategies and community determinants of health listed below also shaped this initiative. 

THRIVE (Tool for Health & Resilience in Vulnerable Environments) is a framework for understanding the root causes of health inequities. Making Connections coalitions used THRIVE to strategize how they would improve mental wellbeing by focusing on specific community determinants of health like housing and education.

The Spectrum of Prevention is a tool that identifies the different ways of advancing primary prevention (addressing a problem before it occurs). Making Connections coalitions used the Spectrum of Prevention to create comprehensive strategic plans for addressing the root causes of mental health inequities in their communities.

The Adverse Community Experiences and Resilience framework helps communities to understand the relationship between community trauma and wellbeing. Making Connections coalitions used the framework to elevate trauma-informed strategies that strengthen their communities’ resilience while focusing on undoing structural violence.