The mental health benefits of community helping during crisis: Coordinated helping, community identification and sense of unity during the COVID-19 pandemic

Mhairi Bowe*, Juliet R. H. Wakefield, Blerina Këllezi, Clifford Stevenson, Niamh McNamara, Bethany A. Jones, Alex Sumich, Nadja Heym

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Communities are vital sources of support during crisis, providing collective contexts for shared identity and solidarity that predict supportive, prosocial responses. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a global health crisis capable of exerting a heavy toll on the mental health of community members while inducing unwelcome levels of social disconnection. Simultaneously, lockdown restrictions have forced vulnerable community members to depend upon the support of fellow residents. Fortunately, voluntary helping can be beneficial to the well-being of the helper as well as the recipient, offering beneficial collective solutions. Using insights from social identity approaches to volunteering and disaster responses, this study explored whether the opportunity to engage in helping fellow community members may be both unifying and beneficial for those engaging in coordinated community helping. Survey data collected in the UK during June 2020 showed that coordinated community helping predicted the psychological bonding of community members by building a sense of community identification and unity during the pandemic, which predicted increased well-being and reduced depression and anxiety. Implications for the promotion and support of voluntary helping initiatives in the context of longer-term responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are provided. Please refer to the Supplementary Material section to find this article's Community and Social Impact Statement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-535
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Volume32
Issue number3
Early online date5 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2022

Keywords

  • community
  • COVID-19
  • helping
  • mental health
  • social identity
  • volunteering
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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