We know that mental health plays an important role in your overall health and well-being. Over the course of a person’s life, the experience of mental health problems can emerge. Thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that about 20 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about one in five adults—will experience a mental health problem in a given year. The good news is that most people with mental health problems get better, and many recover completely.

Mental illnesses affect how we think, feel, and act. Our mental health helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Good mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
  • Biological factors, such as genes or chemical imbalances in your brain
  • Family history of mental health problems

In the past, mental illness was hidden away, not talked about, vilified and even considered a character flaw. Times and attitudes have changed thanks to research, new treatments and the understanding that mental illness is just like any physical illness we may experience. And the best way to continue to understand mental illness, prevent the toll it takes on people and society and help adults, children, teens and families recover and stay well is to talk about it.

DMH is proud to participate in SAMHSA’s Community Conversations initiative. We believe that good mental health starts with a conversation, whether it’s between two people, among a family or throughout entire communities. Remember: It starts with a conversation.

Taking care of one’s mental health is just as important as taking care of one’s physical health. Overall health includes a well-balanced and nutritious diet, regular exercise, stress management, early and ongoing mental health services when needed, and taking time to relax and enjoy family and friends.

If you would like more information or assistance in starting a Community Conversation in your community or group, or you would like to obtain materials such as Community Conversations posters, logos, or other materials, contact:

Michelle Cormier
Office of Communications and Community Engagement


Here we provide you with the tools and resources to start your community’s conversation. Here’s to practicing good mental health and living a balanced and happy life!

The SAMSHA Community Conversations toolkit contains all the information you need to start your conversation about mental illness. Visit the SAMSHA site's Community Conversations.

The Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health is designed to help individuals and organizations who want to organize community conversations achieve three potential objectives:

  • Get others talking about mental health to break down misperceptions and promote recovery and healthy communities;
  • Find innovative community-based solutions to mental health needs, with a focus on helping young people; and
  • Develop clear steps for communities to address their mental health needs in a way that complements existing local activities.

The Toolkit includes:

  1. An   Information Brief pdf format of SAMHSA Community Conversation Information Brief 
file size 3MB doc format of                             SAMHSA Community Conversation Information Brief                 section that provides data and other facts regarding mental health and mental illness and how communities can improve prevention of mental illnesses, promotion of mental health, public education and awareness, early identification, treatment, crisis response, and recovery supports available in their communities.
  2. A Discussion Guide pdf format of SAMHSA Community Conversation Discussion Guide
file size 3MB doc format of                             SAMHSA Community Conversation Discussion Guide                section that is intended for use in holding community conversation meetings. It provides discussion questions, sample views, ideas, and an overall structure for dialogue and engagement on mental health issues.
  3. A Planning Guide pdf format of SAMHSA Community Conversation Planning Guide 
file size 3MB doc format of                             SAMHSA Community Conversation Planning Guide                 section that describes a variety of ways in which people can facilitate their community conversations and take next steps at the local level to raise awareness about mental health and promote access to mental health services.

For Spanish versions and other specialty resources, visit the SAMSHA website above.

DMH Community Conversations materials and posters:

Accessing mental health services:


Resource guides:


Past Community Conversations:


On September 28, 2013, DMH held its first Community Conversation. Called “Many Faces of Mental Health: Sharing our Stories,” it was held at the Kroc Center in Dorchester and proved to be a powerful platform for members of the community to come together and talk about mental illness. As President Barak Obama said during National Mental Health Month in May 2013, “As a Nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling. Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness -- it is a sign of strength.”

DMH joined this national conversation with the help and support of the DMH Multicultural Advisory Committee, the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health and the Boston Community Conversation about Mental Health Planning Committee and you’ll see from the video of the gathering how the power of conversation can make a real difference in many lives.


The first conversation in western Massachusetts was held at Holyoke Medical Center (HMC).  This dialogue kicked off a successful start to the DMH Western Mass. Area Board Community Conversations project.

About 70 people from HMC (doctors, nurses, clinicians, security guards, among others) attended and with the panel engaged in a conversation about how to improve the hospital's emergency department experience for people with mental health conditions.  It was an evening of genuine listening and the breaking down of barriers among all participants.


About 1 in 4 people will experience significant, life-disrupting emotional or mental distress during their lifetime.  For some of these people, their experiences will lead to psychiatric diagnosis and the use of mental health services.  If you or someone you know is affected by these issues, the above document contains some questions you may be wondering about.


This information is provided by the Department of Mental Health