This year’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek coincides with week nine of the UK lockdown. These challenging circumstances may have intensified already existing mental health problems for some or triggered mental health problems for others. Whether you’re feeling disconnected from family and friends, growing tired of being stuck indoors, coming to terms with unemployment or feeling generally uncertain about the future – we’re all struggling in some way or another.
We’ve been thinking about how we can better look after our mental health, particularly during this time. We’ve heard and witnessed first-hand how getting closer to nature can help improve your mental health and we want to encourage others to overcome the complex barriers that prevent us from being outdoors in nature, something that has become all too common for so many of us.
We see getting in touch with nature as an important part of building a thriving, active community. It’s a great way to keep physically active and offers a chance to learn new skills and gives a sense of purpose by having something to care for. Getting more green-fingered can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety while improving emotional and social wellbeing.
We also know that access to green space across England is not equal, with factors such as ethnicity and deprivation playing a huge role. So while studies show that some people have been visiting their local parks more during lockdown, not everyone will have had the opportunity to do so, highlighting just one way in which experiences of COVID-19 have differed between ethnicities.
As #MHAW comes to an end, we encourage you to take photos of wildlife, grow your own windowsill plant, take a stroll through your local green space, or even offer to give your neighbour’s garden a facelift (while following current social distancing rules). Acts of kindness can also help to improve your mental wellbeing, so helping someone less able or in need of an extra pair of hands could be the perfect way to combine both nature and this year’s #MHAW’s theme, kindness.
We’d love for you to share pictures of your own green creations, gardens or local spaces with us! Use the hashtags #brumtogether and #wildtogether across social media for us to see, or share your pictures with us directly over on our Active Communities Going Wild Facebook group.
If you need extra support with your mental health and wellbeing, or you’re feeling lonely and are in need of a friendly chat, follow the link to our telephone befriending service: https://theaws.co.uk/friend/
You can also download a number of mental health apps such as these recommended by the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/category/mental-health/
Check out the below infographic from our partners at The Wildlife Trusts for more nature-related mental health benefits!