From online to in nature, we celebrate the charities supporting our mental health in brilliant ways
Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 10 to 16 May 2021. Hosted by The Mental Health Foundation, the theme of 2021 is Mental Health and Nature. The week aims to inspire people to find new ways to connect with nature and convince decision-makers that access to nature isn’t only an environmental issue, but also a mental health one.
More than half of UK adults say that being close to nature helps their mental health. And with the year we’ve just had, we need to focus on our wellbeing even more than ever.
Here are some of the ways that charities are raising awareness of mental health and finding new ways to support our wellbeing.
According to Mind, being in nature can improve your physical health, reduce stress, and improve your mood. There are great charities working with and within nature to support mental health. For example, Thrive helps people living with disabilities or ill health through gardening.
And Heart Wood in Northumberland, offers free therapeutic group counselling in local woodland. Focusing on men’s groups, it offers a unique route into therapy for people who can’t engage with indoor services. It has plans to offer CPD training to therapists in the autumn.
But you don’t have to leave your home to feel the benefits of nature. Websites which showed footage from webcams of wildlife saw hits increase by over 2000% this year.
Take Tree.fm, for example, which allows you to tune into forests of the world to help you relax. The social enterprise encourages users to record the sounds of their nearest forest, which are then added to the open-source library. As well as allowing you to do a spot of virtual forest bathing, it also encourages donations to plant trees.
Every week, 125 people in the UK take their own lives and 75% of them are men. Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), with agency Recipe, created a film to highlight the ways in which what people say can be totally different to how they feel, helping to “smash the stigma surrounding men’s mental wellbeing”.
Finding the Words (see bwlo) shows rugby player and CALM ambassador Joe Marler talking about a recent win for his team. While the post-match interview delivered to camera is positive, the preview thumbnail on YouTube shows a very different message.
Scroll along the timeline and you’ll find Marler’s inner thoughts, which conclude: “I try to put on a brave face but it’s not helping. I’m on the brink.”
In a similar vein, the Samaritans teamed up with Three UK to encourage people to become better listeners. According to the charity, “listening to someone else is one of the most powerful things you can do for them”.
The simple animation shows five different types of listener – worrier, filler, attention splitter, interviewer, and fixer – and gives tips on how each type can become a better listener. In the animation, the talker and listener are both represented by spheres, meaning anyone can project themselves into the scenario.
As well as launching its app in 2020, the Samaritans started their Feel Good Book Club – which both raises money for the charity and boosts subscribers’ wellbeing. Each month, members receive an uplifting book based on a specific wellbeing theme. The accompanying Facebook group is a place for subscribers to join a like-minded community.
The Cares Family brings together older and younger neighbours. Like many charities during the pandemic, it switched its face-to-face work to online sessions. While introduced as an emergency programme, online three-generational social clubs proved successful as a space for people to pop in and have an all-important chat.
So much so, that they’re likely to continue as part of the permanent offering. Another unseen bonus of moving online is that it’s helped people who’ve moved away from their community to stay connected, no matter where they are in the world.
As well as using Zoom, they created Phone-In clubs, for people less comfortable using online platforms to stay connected. Through these re-invented programmes, 6,832 older and younger people have shared their time and support over the past year.
The pandemic has pushed many of us to the limit and exposed the importance of having different sources of help. Nesta, Macmillan Cancer Support, the UCL Centre for Behavioural Change, and the British Heart Foundation worked together to develop a new model of what ‘Good Help’ looks like.
The research, underpinned by behavioural evidence, resulted in a how to guide to support charities and other ‘help giving’ organisations to find new ways of working and how to test them out within their communities.