The Mental Wellness Index™: Understanding the factors that influence mental wellness at the community level

The Mental Wellness Index (MWI) aggregates 28 factors that influence community-level mental wellness into a single numerical ranking at the ZIP Code level for the entire nation. The MWI provides insights that can promote data-informed decisions and more equitable allocation of resources in partnership with communities.


What is the Mental Wellness Index?

Mental wellness means everyone in a community can thrive and have the opportunity to flourish, regardless of a mental health or a substance use challenge (source: National Council for Mental Wellbeing).

The MWI aggregates 28 measures that act as assets or obstacles to community-level mental wellness. These measures are grouped into three domains in the MWI framework: social determinants of health, healthcare access, and health status. MITRE sourced the measures from publicly available national datasets and incorporated novel measure constructs and methodologies to help represent community assets based on key informant feedback. The MWI framework also acknowledges two dynamic factors that influence mental wellness and the measures used to calculate the index: community & cultural assets and structural racism.

The MWI Framework

MWI’s Populations of Focus

The MWI is available for Black populations (as the initial priority population) and the overall population (to enable broad applicability). The MWI was designed with health equity in mind, and recognizes that equity delivered to historically marginalized and underserved populations will accrue to others and potentially catalyzes movement towards social and racial justice. MITRE also recognizes the need to identify, recognize, and adapt the MWI for additional priority populations such as other racial and ethnic minority groups, LGBTQ+ groups, and age groups.

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MWI Tool Features

The MWI’s open-source tool allows users to explore the MWI and its 28 measures through interactive heat maps and distributions by state and ZIP Code. The processing and code for the MWI is available to anyone, allowing for complete methodological transparency. Uniquely, the Create Your Own MWI feature allows users to reflect their values of and experiences with the factors that influence mental wellness in their communities, by incorporating their own data, or adjusting measure weights to create a custom MWI. For updates and further developments to the MWI, please visit MITRE's MWI GitHub page.

MWI Tool Features.

How to Use the MWI

The MWI was created to be used by community advocates, public health officials, decision-makers and more at the local, state, and national levels. The MWI is designed to promote data-informed decisions, encourage more equitable allocation of resources, and support decisions in partnership with communities (rather than on the behalf of communities). Potential uses include: (1) Grant Application Support: The MWI can be used to support grant applications, providing evidence to justify community-level needs. (2) Objective, Data-Based Dashboard: The MWI provides a standardized way to compare factors contributing to mental wellness across ZIP Codes that can help inform decision makers about where to focus resources. (3) Community-Level Planning: The MWI’s ZIP Code-level focus can help design and direct community-level efforts to address mental wellness factors.

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Make a difference

Learn more about this issue through these external resources.