Co-locating mental health services in the community reduces health inequalities

New Fuse research suggests co-locating mental health services in community settings can significantly improve mental health outcomes and reduce inequalities.

The study, published in BMC Public Health, explored the reasons behind this positive impact and calls for policymakers to invest in expanding these services.

Traditionally, mental health interventions have been delivered in separate and often clinical settings. However, this research highlights the benefits of co-locating diverse services, such as skills training, peer support groups, and financial advice, within the same physical space.

The research led by Fuse academic Dr Fiona Duncan from Newcastle University, identified five key benefits of co-location:

  1. Holistic and Person-Centered Support: Co-location fosters collaboration between services, enabling them to share knowledge, design coordinated care plans, and provide more effective referrals. Additionally, community organisations tend to be less bureaucratic, allowing for a more flexible and tailored approach to individual needs.
  2. Reduced Stigma and Increased Accessibility: The study found that people often perceive statutory services as intimidating and judgmental. Co-locating services in familiar community settings creates a more welcoming and approachable environment, reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking behavior.
  3. Psychologically Safe and Supportive Environment: Community spaces often have a warmer and friendlier atmosphere compared to traditional clinical settings. This can be crucial for individuals struggling with mental health challenges, as it fosters a sense of comfort and trust.
  4. Overcoming Accessibility Barriers: Co-location eliminates the need for individuals to travel between different service providers, saving time and resources. This is particularly beneficial for those facing financial constraints or mobility limitations.
  5. Enhanced Sustainability: Sharing resources like office space and equipment allows co-located services to pool resources, reducing financial burdens and allowing them to focus on delivering quality care. Additionally, co-location can enhance their reputation and impact, attracting more funding and support.

While challenges like potential conflicts between service users and providers exist, the study overwhelmingly highlights the positive impact of co-located mental health services. The researchers urge policymakers to recognise the value of this approach and invest in developing and expanding these services within communities.

The study was funded by the NIHR School for Public Healht Research (SPHR).

Find out more

This research has been summarised in the following:

NIHR SPHR project page: Does co-locating public mental health interventions in community settings improve mental health and reduce health inequalities?

Last modified: Wed, 21 Feb 2024 12:43:55 GMT