What Is Community Mental Health? (2023)

What Is Community Mental Health? (1)According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, approximately 51.5 million adults in the U.S. (about 1 in 5 adults) experienced mental illness in 2019. With demand for mental health services only increasing, ensuring that we have enough providers to treat mental illness is paramount.

Community mental health centers are critical to meeting the demand for mental health treatment across the country. Filling the gaps when individuals are unable to obtain treatment from private providers, community mental health centers operate on the front line in helping individuals contend with challenges to their mental health.

What is community mental health? Understanding the important role of addressing mental health issues in our communities is key for students who pursue Master of Arts in Counseling programs.

Defining Community Mental Health

The American Psychological Association defines community mental health as activities that promote mental health that are performed in the community instead of institutional settings.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the concept of community mental health originated with the Community Mental Health Act of 1963. Prior to the passage of that act, individuals with mental illness in the U.S. were frequently institutionalized, and the quality of the treatment they received varied significantly.

(Video) What is Community Mental Health? | CIIS

SAMHSA information on the history of community mental health indicates that, after 1963, the focus of mental health treatment shifted from institutionalization to treating individuals where they live, and communities across the country began establishing their own mental health centers. The premise of the shift was the theory that communities would best establish the mental health facilities that fit their unique needs.

Community Mental Health Centers

According to the American Psychological Association, a community mental health center is a facility or facilities that are community-based and provide mental health services, sometimes as an alternative to the care that mental hospitals provide.

SAMHSA reported that, as of 2019, approximately 2,700 community mental health centers were in operation. They are supported by sources such as county and state funding programs, federal funding through programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, private insurance and cash payments. The centers treat both children and adults, including individuals who are chronically mentally ill or have been discharged from an inpatient mental health facility.

The Mental Health Professionals Who Work at Community Mental Health Centers

Social workers, psychiatrists, counselors, psychologists and peer support specialists are some of the professionals who provide services at community mental health centers. In addition, community mental health centers frequently contract with other providers in the community for their services; they also refer clients to other types of providers such as residential treatment centers.

Community Mental Health Centers That Participate in Assertive Community Treatment Teams

Community mental health centers can choose to be part of a team that provides assertive community treatment (ACT). Under the ACT model, providers with a variety of expertise form a team to assist individuals in the community who have persistent and severe mental illnesses. The teams provide individuals with a variety of services to help them function independently. These services include:

  • Housing assistance
  • Financial management
  • Mental health services
  • Employment services

Services That Community Mental Health Centers Provide

Understanding the type of services that community mental health centers provide can help clarify what community mental health is within the mental health care landscape.

Community mental health centers primarily offer outpatient mental health services, but they are not limited to that. Examples of the specific services they may offer to individuals with mental illness include:

  • Diagnostic evaluation
  • Screening for possible admission to a mental health facility
  • Emergency care
  • Crisis intervention services
  • Psychotherapy
  • Partial hospitalization or day treatment
  • Psychosocial rehabilitation
  • Medication management
  • Substance abuse treatment

Moving Beyond Traditional Services

Some community mental health centers have branched into offering other nontraditional services such as:

(Video) Community-based mental health care: the Power of Purpose

  • Mobile crisis units
  • Vocational and educational services
  • Consultation services through which they coordinate with people and entities such as clergy members, schools and social service agencies
  • Training services for mental health staff

To effectively provide services to all community members, community mental health centers must be able to assist individuals who do not speak English. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of 2019, 84% of community mental health centers offered services in languages other than English.

Transitioning to Telehealth

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, many community mental health centers have begun offering their services via telehealth, for example, by conducting psychotherapy via video chat or over the telephone.

According to a study published in 2021 in the journal Implementation Science Communications, the community mental health center staff who were surveyed viewed telehealth positively. However, the study concluded that more research is necessary to determine whether community mental health centers should continue to provide telehealth services beyond the time frame of the pandemic.

A New Model to Address Challenges in Community Mental Health

While community mental health centers have helped a significant number of people over the years, numerous challenges continue to confront the effective provision of mental health services in communities across the country.

Suicide and Drug Abuse

Addressing the high rates of suicide and drug overdose remains challenging. According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 10 to 34.

Lack of Providers

Shortages of mental health professionals have resulted in inadequate access to treatment. The National Council for Mental Wellbeing asserts that roughly 12% of individuals who need substance abuse treatment actually receive that treatment.

Overburdened Jails and Emergency Rooms

Jails and emergency rooms are being increasingly charged with treating individuals navigating mental illness and substance abuse concerns. Both have struggled to treat individuals who might be better served in other settings.

Funding Challenges

Funding issues have left some community mental health centers unable to hire the staff they need to offer the programs people require.

(Video) Changing views on mental health in the Black community | Chante Meadows | TEDxKingLincolnBronzeville

A New Method of Service Delivery

Fortunately, in 2014, federal law established a new model for what community mental health is. Specifically, the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 created the concept of certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHCs). CCBHCs are entities that provide comprehensive mental health and substance use services to individuals. For example, CCBHCs are required to:

  • Offer a standardized array of mental health and addiction services
  • Coordinate care with local entities such as providers of primary care and law enforcement
  • Ease access to care, reduce long wait times and provide services regardless of individuals’ ability to pay
  • Provide continuous mobile crisis services
  • Comply with staffing requirements, such as having a psychiatrist who serves as medical director and staff with credentials in substance abuse disorders
  • Comply with reporting requirements regarding how they are addressing the suicide crisis

Meeting those requirements enables CCBHCs to receive Medicaid payments that cover the actual costs of delivering enhanced services to more patients. This significantly reduces uncertainties about funding that have plagued traditional community mental health centers.

The CCBHC program began as a demonstration program in eight states, and by 2020, 113 CCBHCs were operating in 21 states. New federal funding made available in 2021 aims to expand the total number of CCBHCs to 340. CCBHCs may be one answer to the challenges that community mental health faces.

Community Mental Health: A Critical Part of the Mental Health Landscape

Community mental health services are critically important elements in getting individuals the mental health care they need to function in their everyday lives. Individuals who feel called to learn more about what community mental health is and how they can play an important role in a growing field of mental health can explore the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Arts in Counseling program and its Community Mental Health track Find out how the program can help you pursue your professional goals. Discover your place in a rewarding field today.


American Psychological Association, Community Mental Health

American Psychological Association, Community Mental Health Center

Behavioral Health Business, “New Funding Allows for Massive Expansion of CCBHCs”

(Video) The NHS Community Mental Health Transformation

Implementation Science Communications, “An Observational Study of the Impact of COVID-19 and the Rapid Implementation of Telehealth on Community Mental Health Center Providers”

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health by the Numbers

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Treatment Settings

National Council for Mental Wellbeing, “Demand for Mental Health and Addiction Services Increasing as COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Threaten Availability of Treatment Options”

National Council for Mental Wellbeing, “Hope for the Future: CCBHCs Expanding Mental Health and Addiction Treatment”

SMI Adviser, What Is Assertive Community Treatment (Act) for People with Severe Mental Illness?

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “National Mental Health Services Survey (N-MHSS): 2019, Data on Mental Health Treatment Facilities”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Reflecting on JFK’s Legacy of Community-Based Care

(Video) Mental Health = Health (for diverse communities)


What is the meaning of community mental health? ›

Defining Community Mental Health

The American Psychological Association defines community mental health as activities that promote mental health that are performed in the community instead of institutional settings.

What is an example of community mental health? ›

Community mental health care includes provision of crisis support, protected housing, and sheltered employment in addition to management of disorders to address the multiple needs of individuals. Community-based services can lead to early intervention and limit the stigma of treatment.

What is the function of community mental health? ›

Community mental health care provides crisis care to people experiencing mental health challenges — often when a referral to a private therapist or clinician is impossible.

What is community mental health movement in psychology? ›

Description: The Community Mental Health Movement (MSMC) cultivates the whole human being by respecting each person's bio-psycho-social-spiritual dimensions and by fostering each person's potential through the reclaiming of human and cultural values.

How can we promote mental health in the community? ›

Any activities that promote exercise, sleep, and good nutrition. Projects that encourage help-seeking and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Initiatives that encourage gratitude and mindfulness. Creating spaces for communities to gather, build relationships and identify common needs.

What are the causes of mental illness in the community? ›

What causes mental health problems?
  • childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect.
  • social isolation or loneliness.
  • experiencing discrimination and stigma, including racism.
  • social disadvantage, poverty or debt.
  • bereavement (losing someone close to you)
  • severe or long-term stress.
  • having a long-term physical health condition.

What are the 3 examples of mental health? ›

Types of mental health problems
  • Anger. Explains what anger is, and how to deal with it in a constructive and healthy way.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks. ...
  • Bipolar disorder. ...
  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) ...
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD) ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Dissociation and dissociative disorders. ...
  • Eating problems.

What are the three common types of mental health? ›

Of those, the three most common diagnoses are anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These three conditions make up around 30 percent of all diagnoses of mental illness in America. While they share many of the same qualities, they're also significantly different from one another.

What communities are affected by mental health? ›

Racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors including inaccessibility of high quality mental health care services, cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health.

What a community can do to help prevent mental illness? ›

What changes can society make to prevent mental health problems?
  1. helping parents nurture their children.
  2. protecting children from trauma.
  3. educating young people to understand and manage their emotions.
  4. supporting people under a lot of stress at work.
  5. reducing loneliness for older people.
Oct 4, 2021

How has mental health changed with the use of community care? ›

The Community Care Act (1990) allowed individual's suffering with their mental health support and care from within their own home allowing the individual to feel secure and comfortable. The stigma and stereotypes around mental health have mostly faded however some stigmas and stereotypes still exist.

What is the main focus of community psychology? ›

The field of community psychology focuses on the study of how individuals relate to their communities and the reciprocal effect of communities on individuals.

When did the community mental health movement begin? ›

The community mental health movement began in the United States in 1963, when President John Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act and community mental health centers arose in towns and cities throughout the country 8.

How does mental illness affect the community? ›

Untreated mental health conditions can result in unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, and suicide, and poor quality of life.

How can we reduce mental health stigma in communities? ›

Easy Ways You Can Reduce Stigma

Talk openly about mental health. Social media has become a great space for positivity. Educate yourself and others – respond to misperceptions or negative comments by sharing facts and experiences. Be conscious of language – remind people that words matter.

How can we improve others mental health? ›

The 10 Tools
  • Connect with others.
  • Stay positive.
  • Get physically active.
  • Help others.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Create joy and satisfaction.
  • Eat well.
  • Take care of your spirit.

Why is it important to promote mental health awareness? ›

Talking openly about mental health can reduce the misconceptions and stigma, and can encourage those who are suffering to seek help and find a support network. It's important for caregivers, friends, and loved ones to understand the impact that mental health has on daily life.

What are the 4 types of mental health? ›

mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder) anxiety disorders. personality disorders. psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia)

What are 5 signs of mental health problems? ›

  • Feeling sad or down.
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
Dec 13, 2022

What makes mental health worse? ›

Bad sleep habits include getting too little sleep or inadequate sleep, drinking caffeine late in the day, engaging in stressful situations before bedtime, and using electronic devices before bedtime. When it comes to mental health, these habits and patterns of thinking can be your worst enemy.

What is the hardest mental illness to live with? ›

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPDs) become overwhelmed and incapacitated by the intensity of their emotions, whether it is joy and elation or depression, anxiety, and rage. They are unable to manage these intense emotions.

What is the #1 most diagnosed mental disorder? ›

Depression. Impacting an estimated 300 million people, depression is the most-common mental disorder and generally affects women more often than men.

Who is most affected by mental health issues? ›

Women are nearly twice as likely to suffer from major depression than men. However, men and women are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder. While major depression can develop at any age, the average age at onset is the mid-20s.

What is the easiest mental illness to treat? ›

Sometimes anxiety disorders can cause fear so intense it totally disables its victims. Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental illnesses, and they are also the most treatable.

Is anxiety a form of mental illness? ›

Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available.

What is the difference between mental health and mental illness? ›

While mental health is always there and may be positive or negative, mental illness affects a person's ability to function over a long period of time. Mental illness is not the same as feeling sad, unhappy, or stressed because of difficult situations.

What are the impacts of mental health on family and community? ›

Mental health conditions often has a 'ripple effect' on families, creating tension, uncertainty, stress and sometimes significant changes in how people live their lives. Different family members are likely to be affected in different ways.

Why is mental health an issue? ›

Mental health conditions can have a substantial effect on all areas of life, such as school or work performance, relationships with family and friends and ability to participate in the community. Two of the most common mental health conditions, depression and anxiety, cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year.

What actually is anxiety? ›

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview.

What is a community intervention? ›

Community-based interventions refer to programs and initiatives that aim to improve the health and well-being of specific population groups within a defined local community. These interventions are often multicomponent, meaning that they employ multiple strategies and tactics to achieve their goals.

How do you deal with a mentally unstable person? ›

How to support someone with a mental health problem
  1. Talking about mental health. ...
  2. Set time aside with no distractions. ...
  3. Let them share as much or as little as they want to. ...
  4. Don't try to diagnose or second guess their feelings. ...
  5. Keep questions open ended. ...
  6. Talk about self-care. ...
  7. Listen carefully to what they tell you.

What is meant by care in the community in relation to mental disorders? ›

Care in the Community (also called "Community Care" or "Domiciliary Care") is a British policy of deinstitutionalisation, treating and caring for physically and mentally disabled people in their homes rather than in an institution.

What is mental health and how does your community view it in terms of mental illness? ›

“Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.” The WHO states that mental health is “more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.”

How does mental health education help improve communities and society? ›

Mental health education provides necessary awareness and resources for individuals and their loved ones. It helps break the stigma associated with mental health. Additionally, it can promote efforts for treatment and recovery.

What are the 7 principles of Community Psychology? ›

These principles include (1) personal wellness and access to resources; (2) social justice and freedom from oppression; (3) a sense of community and connectedness; (4) multiple dimensions of diversity (e.g., gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability); and (5) community collaboration, participation, self- ...

What are the three major challenges of Community Psychology? ›

Community psychology is concerned with social institutions, social issues, and social problems.

What are the key issues in Community Psychology? ›

Community psychologists comprehensively analyze, investigate, and address problems such as economic inequality, violence, substance abuse, homelessness, poverty, and racism.

Why did the Community Mental Health Act fail? ›

In fact, it failed because it did not provide care for the sickest patients released from the state hospitals. When President Ronald Reagan finally block-granted federal CMHC funds to the states in 1981, he was not killing the program.

How many community mental health centers are there in the US? ›

As per Statista, as of 2020, there are 12,275 mental health facilities in the US. Among them, there are 1,806 24-hour inpatient institutions and 9,634 establishments that provide less than 24-hour outpatient care.

What are the characteristics of a mentally healthy person? ›

You probably have good mental health if:
  • you are confident when faced with new situations or people.
  • you feel optimistic.
  • you do not always blame yourself.
  • you set goals.
  • you feel good about yourself.
  • you have good self esteem.

What is the importance of community mental health? ›

Community mental health care provides crisis care to people experiencing mental health challenges — often when a referral to a private therapist or clinician is impossible.

Why is community important for wellbeing? ›

Importance of communities and mental health

Without community, people may feel more isolated and lonely. One of the ways we can strengthen our mental health is by building community and creating the social connection and support to have more vulnerable conversations.

What are the community impacts of mental health? ›

Often, poor mental health leads to problems such as social isolation, which disrupts a person's communication and interactions with others. This can have particularly harmful effects on children and adolescents whose development depends on forming bonds with their family members and peers.

Why community support is important? ›

Without community, people may feel more isolated and lonely. One of the ways we can strengthen our mental health is by building community and creating the social connection and support to have more vulnerable conversations.

Why is being involved in the community important? ›

It will enrich your life, familiarize you with your community, and connect you to people and ideas that will positively impact your perspective for the rest of your life. Helping your community is an opportunity for you to grow as a person, to better understand how you fit into the world around you.

Who is most impacted by mental health? ›

Women are nearly twice as likely to suffer from major depression than men. However, men and women are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder. While major depression can develop at any age, the average age at onset is the mid-20s.

Why is mental health a public health issue? ›

Unprecedented challenges with mental health affect every aspect of life including the ability to conduct the activities of daily living. Unrecognized and untreated mental health conditions can lead to social isolation and problems with interacting with one's family and community.

What is the most common mental disorder in society? ›

Depression. Impacting an estimated 300 million people, depression is the most-common mental disorder and generally affects women more often than men.


1. Pros & Cons of Working Community Mental Health, Private Practice, and For Your Private Practice
(Keep On Growing)
2. Devon's Community Mental Health
(Devon Partnership NHS Trust)
3. Community Mental Health ch 23 part 1: Introduction
(MBBS Stuff)
4. Community Mental Health: A Critical Role for Social Workers - Rebecca Frank, LCSW, CSAC
(UW-Madison Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work)
5. What is a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT)?
6. What's it like to be a Community Mental Health Nurse?
(University of Dundee)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Errol Quitzon

Last Updated: 05/06/2023

Views: 6216

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Errol Quitzon

Birthday: 1993-04-02

Address: 70604 Haley Lane, Port Weldonside, TN 99233-0942

Phone: +9665282866296

Job: Product Retail Agent

Hobby: Computer programming, Horseback riding, Hooping, Dance, Ice skating, Backpacking, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Errol Quitzon, I am a fair, cute, fancy, clean, attractive, sparkling, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.