The Natural Choice for Mental Health Awareness Week
This month, there is an opportunity for all of us to focus collectively on the goal of achieving better mental health, in the form of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 10 to 16 May.
The pandemic has also affected our mental health
A survey conducted last summer by the mental health organisation Mind found that more than half of adults (60%) and a greater number of young people (68%) reported worsening mental health during lockdown. Only around 29% said their mental health had remained the same since the start of the pandemic.
And while another study, from the Mental Health Foundation, has found that virus-related anxiety fell from 62% to 42% among UK adults between March 2020 and February 2021, loneliness is still on the rise, according to the same research. What’s more, fewer of us believe we are handling the stress of the situation well – 73% in April 2020, compared with 64% in February 2021.
From the lack of ability to renew or forge connections with others due to closed gyms and schools to fears for ourselves and those closest to us, the toll of the coronavirus pandemic on our mental health has been, and remains, incalculable.
Mental Health Awareness Week – one of the biggest events in the world
Run by the Mental Health Foundation for more than two decades, the Mental Health Awareness Week initiative has become one of the biggest events of its kind in the world – and it’s open to anyone.
The occasion offers the chance to kick-start a conversation about any aspect of mental well-being. But each year there is a particular theme – and, this year, the emphasis is on nature, with organisers hoping people will take the time to notice the natural world, and make the effort to connect with it every day.
You could do that by doing something as simple as smelling some freshly cut grass, making a point to listen out for birdsong while out walking the dog, or caring for a plant at home. You can also share videos, photos, and audio clips on social media using the hashtags #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and #ConnectWithNature.
The foundation chose this focus because of the well-known links between well-being, tackling mental health issues, and the natural world.
In a statement, a representative said: “Our own research has shown that being in nature has been one of the most popular ways the public has tried to sustain good mental health at a challenging time.”
Given that not everyone can access nature with equal ease – a lot will depend on where you live and how much outside space your home has, for example – the charity is at the same time calling for policy initiatives – such as enhancing safety in parks, tree planting and asking developers to incorporate more green spaces in their plans.
Get out there
We have previously written about the benefits of taking a study break outdoors. But we thought this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week provided the ideal opportunity to stress once again the importance to your wellbeing of getting outside and being active, especially at a time of year when much of the summer still lies ahead.
So be sure to get outdoors next time you down tools – and get involved in this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Of course, it won’t serve as a miracle cure for all mental health problems, so you should always remain vigilant about the wellbeing of both yourself and those around you. Equally, there are plenty of other initiatives you could consider, such as introducing a mental health first-aid scheme at your place of work.
But do not forget the difference that Mother Nature can make, or the role a quick daily blast of the great outdoors can play in lifting all our spirits, enabling us to deal better with negative feelings, and to keep calm and carry on coping with whatever the day happens to throw our way.