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 is partnering with 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.

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.  

Background

Background

Making Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys began in 2015 with an investment by Movember in diverse communities across the United States, all working to improve mental health and wellbeing among men and boys of color, or military service members, veterans and their families. Sites were supported in their planning and implementation efforts by Prevention Institute, which provided ongoing technical assistance and coaching on upstream prevention, community resilience, and engagement. 

Five years into the initiative, the 13 Making Connections communities—from Honolulu, Hawaii to Chicago, Illinois to Canton, Connecticut—have shown that peer-to-peer support and shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration have the power to heal harms and build resilience. Their efforts to improve community conditions have made a major difference in the lives of boys, men, and those that care about them. For example, by implementing strategies that create spaces for coming together, several of the communities built on strengths and assets to address social isolation and developed lasting connections, which is more important than ever. 

Now, the journey forward is one with multiple paths. First, the innovative strategies that were developed through Making Connections will inspire other communities that want to pursue community-level prevention approaches to improve men and boy’s mental health and wellbeing. All of the Making Connections community partners will be invited to continue their collective and local efforts using the Making Connections backpack resource website, launching in November and hosted by Prevention Institute. Five of the sites will continue to receive direct funding from Movember.

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.