Transformation. Revolution. Compassion. Connection. These were among the ways participants at the annual Making Connections convening described wellbeing in the context of their work cultivating mental health and wellbeing with men and boys in their communities.
Watch this short video featuring some of the many words participants used to describe wellbeing.
At the three-day gathering at Prevention Institute in Oakland, California, representatives from Making Connections coalitions from across the US continued to build synergy and momentum, further exploring intersecting interests and opportunities to leverage talent and knowledge across the Community of Practice.
Pre-convening sessions included an orientation for those new to the national initiative, along with discussions on community actions to enhance wellbeing through the physical and built environment, and the emerging role of health care organizations in changing and sustaining community prevention approaches to mental wellbeing.
Discussions focused on the four shifts that are at the center of Making Connections’ transformative work:
- Reframing concepts of mental health to include wellbeing and resilience;
- Shifting the focus upstream to emphasize mental health strategies that promote prevention and resilience as a complement to treatment and services;
- Expanding our approaches to address community conditions that influence mental health and wellbeing in addition to those that focus on individuals; and
- Integrating gender- and culture-informed strategies that meet men and boys where they are and that embrace a broad range of positive masculine qualities.
Throughout the convening, communities grappled with the tensions inherent in making these shifts, recognizing that while strategies across the continuum are important, the aim of Making Connections is to disrupt the status quo and reach for upstream approaches that transform community conditions to promote wellbeing for men and boys. Stepping into these spaces that are relatively unexplored maximizes opportunities to accelerate progress and realize greater wellbeing across the population. The conversations began with an overview of the Making Connections National Theory of Change and how its strategies will contribute to making these shifts.
The connection you have in your community and this community are the fabric of resilience and thriving… What we’re doing here and what you’re doing in your community is forging the future for our society to heal ourselves and heal each other and to understand our potential as people and communities to be our most vibrant. -Howard Pinderhughes, Associate Professor & Chair, UCSF School of Nursing and Prevention Institute partner
Reframing Mental Health and Wellbeing
Conversations about changing the way we talk and think about mental health and wellbeing explored:
- The need to normalize the idea of mental health; to strengthen the belief that as with physical health, it’s important to care for and sustain our mental health.
- Finding opportunities to expand ideas around mental health to include positive aspects, such as resilience, joy, and self-confidence, and to embrace mental health and wellness as a goal for the population as a whole.
- The importance of understanding and addressing cultural barriers and leveraging cultural assets. For example, in some immigrant cultures, the concept of mental health is either not discussed at all, or conflated with mental illness. At the same time, many indigenous traditions have strong intergenerational ties that can foster connection and wellbeing.
In addition to developing gender-informed approaches, Making Connections communities are tailoring their strategies to reflect their particular populations of focus. In the fall of 2017, Making Connections sites that include veterans and military service members in their populations of focus came together in Nebraska to share ideas. They continued the conversation in a podcast discussion at the annual convening.
This is hard work, we realize that, but at the end of the day, I go home knowing we’re making a difference. … I come away from this meeting every year with that positivity, that reminder that you all are doing some great things. Mark Hedstrom, The Movember Foundation