BUILDING COMMUNITY CARE COLLECTIVELY

Post L.M. and N.M.

In conversations during VitaFest, during in the Panel ‘Mental Health Management’ and the Workshop ‘Community Mental Health Care’, we defined community care as:

a series of collective actions focused on maintaining and improving group health and well-being by building in community a present and a future that benefits and improves the living conditions of our community”. 

Community care is an approach used to enable people in a community to support each other. Community care focuses on individual well-being being intrinsically linked to the well-being of others. It has a major effect on mental health, as one’s own well-being is understood as an extension of that of the community of which they are a part of.

A fundamental aspect of community care is the recognition of the systemic inequalities that women and the LGBTTIQ+ population go through, intersecting with the situation of racialized and/or disabled people, among others. This inequality directly affects the well-being of these groups.

Community-based care responds to inequalities by creating new structures of mutual support provided by members of a community, according to Mental Health America.

Caring for ourselves and each other has become the real challenge of the post-pandemic world and a true exercise in rebellion,” is how we define it in our report, Persistir y Resurgir Persist and Resurge (2022). 

From this context, community mental health has an important role to play in addressing the effects of racism, marginalization, violence, trauma and other social factors.

Community care as a trench vindicates values and practices such as solidarity, reciprocity, equality and the balanced redistribution of care tasks. “Managing to materialize this redistribution online and in physical space improves our social well-being and leaves no one out,” the Report adds.

In addition, we recognize that “Alone we cannot heal and repair the damage that violence generates in us. When we turn to the community to take care of our digital and physical bodies, we accompany and support each other in order to heal”.

At Vita Activa we believe that the knowledge and tools for self-support and community care should be available to everyone. 

So here are some tips/reminders about community care and mental health that can help you start this year off right:

  • The body does not understand concepts, it understands sensations. It is important to always keep in mind tools that help us manage emotional crises and allow you to get support, especially when you have just suffered the impact of news, an accident or have experienced digital or analogous violence in your personal or community life.
  • Psychological first aid refers to a first instance of care that you can receive when you have experienced a personal or community crisis. This tool allows the person who receives it to make his or her own decisions through self-management and supportive accompaniment: only you know what is best for you.
  • Applied at the right moment, empathic conversations can reduce the effects of trauma generated by crises in the long term and allow you to regain control over yourself and your actions.
  • Psychological first aid is not therapy. In some cases, empathic conversations may be insufficient or ill timed; it is an act of responsibility to recognize when we need professional help. It is an act of sorority to set caring limits to our support when this is the case.
  • Build spaces and communities with empathy and respect. Your relationships and context in times of crisis are meant to be a companion and support you in understanding what is happening to you, as well as to give you back control over your actions and reactions. Not judging experiences, making autonomous decisions and waiting to decide when you are ready are clear signs of sisterhood.
  • We take care of ourselves by recognizing our right to disconnect, by pausing everything and turning off our screens. By physically meeting people and connecting with what is around us that is not digital. Holistic self-care is a right to which we should aspire.
  • The crisis means that we have to start designing new ways to cope with the circumstances and generate changes in the present and the future.

And you, how do you build community care from your space?