New NSUN research report: Exploring “community” and mental health

White text on a white background: "Exploring 'community' & the mental health lived experience landscape". The NSUN logo is in the bottom left hand corner

NSUN has today published a new report exploring the meaning of “community” in the mental health lived experience landscape. It explores whether those with lived experience could be considered a “community”, and also how the term “community” is assumed or forced upon us from outside.

This report is the result of research was conducted by survivor researcher Dr Courtney Buckler, commissioned and coordinated by NSUN, and grant funded by the Communities Team at Mind.

The report is built on the outcomes of research including a survey, interviews, and focus groups with people who identify as having lived experience of mental-ill health, distress, or trauma. The aim was to learn more about how people understand or use the term “community” in different places or parts of their lives, including its limits and its possibilities as a term.

There have been many attempts over the years to bring people with experience of mental ill-health, distress, or trauma together into a unified or collective movement. However, there is no single “community” of people with lived experience. Instead there are many of us identifying and using our experience to make the world a better place, often with different visions and tactics for what needs to be done.

Still, there is an appetite and a need for community-building and collective action led by people with lived experience. We must be able to think seriously about what it means to claim or build community; including how people can be harmed, who is being left behind, and how the term can be co-opted for interests other than our own.

This report is intended for a wide audience, in the context of rising interest in talking about, engaging and co-producing with, representing, researching, and funding communities who have shared lived experiences of mental ill-health, distress or trauma. It may be of interest to anyone keen to explore some of the benefits, complexities and challenges of talking about and building “community” and broaden their understanding of what the term might mean to people. It is ultimately intended to inform and challenge work focussed on engaging communities and lived experience.