Volume 13, Issue 1 | October 4, 2018

This issue of the Community Development Innovation Review is dedicated to the topic of mental health and community development. It advances the healthy communities conversation by explicitly recognizing the relationship between mental health and physical health as well as the role social factors play in both aspects of overall wellbeing. As the World Health Organization (WHO) says, “There is no health without mental health.” As the articles in this issue of the Review reveal, there are profound connections between poverty, place, and poor mental health. Issues like financial insecurity, housing instability, community violence, and limited economic prospects are risk factors for poor mental health—they are also the very same issues that community development seeks to address. In addition, the articles explore emerging themes in the field and their connection to mental health, such as the prevalence of trauma, community resilience in the face of climate change, and the power of arts and culture to engage and activate a community.

Table of Contents


Laura Choi

Moving Upstream to Promote Mental Health: The Role of Community Development

Laura Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

“Upstream” social factors, like neighborhood conditions, can have a profound impact on mental health, suggesting that community development has an important opportunity to proactively work across sectors and promote the mental health of low-income communities.

The Mental Health Imperative: Learning from History and Innovating Forward

Benjamin F. Miller and Tyler Norris, Well Being Trust

To chart a successful path forward, policymakers and community leaders must take a systems lens and provide thoughtful leadership, strategic community investment, and a comprehensive vision of health that includes mental, emotional, and social health.

Catalyzing Community Action for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Sheila B. Savannah and Larissa J. Estes, Prevention Institute

Community development approaches, coupled with resident community action, can reach across multiple sectors to measurably influence mental wellbeing at a community level. The field is well positioned to guide partnerships that improve the community determinants of health associated with mental wellbeing.

Widening Our Health Lens: Incorporating Trauma-Informed Practice into Affordable Housing

Ashlei Hurst and Doug Shoemaker, Mercy Housing California

This article discusses the implications of a trauma-informed lens for affordable housing developers and how building a comprehensive culture of trauma awareness and sensitivity can improve the life trajectory of young people living in affordable housing communities.

Arts, Culture, and Community Mental Health

Jamie Hand, ArtPlace America, Tasha Golden, University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences

Creative placemaking has an impact on multiple aspects of mental health, including stigma; trauma; community-level stress, depression, and substance use disorders; and cultural identity. This article describes their relevance to public health and provides examples of initiatives that address them.

Community Development and Accountable Communities for Health: New Opportunities for Mental Health Promotion

Nathaniel Z. Counts and Paul Gionfriddo, Mental Health America

The community development and health care sectors can partner to improve mental health, and the Accountable Health Communities Model provides a specific example of how to do so. Community development could help to address health-related social needs and promote mental health recovery.

Equitable Community Development for Good Mental Health: A Discussion of Economic and Racial Equity in Housing

Dayna Bowen Matthew, University of Virginia

This essay summarizes the research that confirms the persistent association between adverse housing conditions and mental health inequity. It also explores the theoretical grounding that supports intervening to disrupt the relationship between poor housing and poor mental health.

Mental Health, Climate Change, and Community Development: Strengthening Core Capabilities to Promote Community Resilience

Margaret Walkover, University of Hawaii-Manoa; Linda Helland, California Department of Public Health

This article explains how and why climate-related extreme weather events impact mental health, the restorative relationship between mental health and social capital, and the critical importance of social capital to other disaster-related community investments.

Building a Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health “Community of Solution” in Rural Colorado

Jack M. Westfall, Maret Felzien, and Linda Zittleman, High Plains Research Network, University of Colorado Department of Family Medicine

Learn how a participatory collaboration between the residents, primary care practices, and practice-based researchers led to a “community of solution” working to address mental, emotional, and behavioral health needs in a rural community in Eastern Colorado.