Spotlight on the benefits of nature to support mental health

Published Monday, 10 May 2021

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) from the Mental Health Foundation is nature. Health and care partners across Coventry and Warwickshire are supporting the week.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

They are asking people to think about how they can use the great outdoors to improve their mental health.  

There is lots going on in Coventry and Warwickshire during the week, helping people enjoy nature and find ways to talk about and improve their mental health. More information and details about activities can be found on the Wellbeing for Life website.

The Mental Health Foundation’s campaign page features lots of tips to help people to connect with nature and understand the role it plays to protect and support wellbeing. Suggestions include; using all our senses, exercising outside, inviting nature inside, and protecting nature in local communities. 

The good news is people don’t have to do much to feel the benefits and the most important thing is to take notice of our environments, to recognise the sights, sounds and smells of life outside the window. With the pandemic leading to so many of us spending more time than ever indoors, remembering what our outdoor spaces have to offer can be really rewarding, like helping to bring a sense of calm and tranquillity.

Taking notice is one of the five ways to wellbeing, promoted widely in Coventry and Warwickshire to support mental health as part of the Wellbeing for Life initiative which helps communities to take care of their mental and physical health. The five ways are easy steps to follow to improve mental health and build wellbeing and kindness into daily life to help people feel good and function well. They are: connect, be active, keep learning, give and take notice.

Consultant in Public Health at Coventry City Council Jane Fowles, said: “The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, connecting with nature, couldn’t be more fitting given the present times and the toll the pandemic has taken on the mental wellbeing of many in our communities.  

“Over the last year so many of us have turned to nature to help us get through lockdowns. It is fantastic to see that getting outdoors, around wildlife, in local parks and green spaces, has helped residents connect with nature, which has both aided prevention of and assisted recovery from poor mental health. 

“Looking after our wellbeing, and the wellbeing of those around us, during these uncertain times is at the top of our agenda. I highly recommend adopting the Five Ways to Wellbeing as part of daily life, to help reduce stress and improve emotional wellbeing as we recover from the pandemic. 

“There are also fantastic support services available to those in the community that need help, as well as resources such as the Dear Life website. We want Coventry and Warwickshire to be an area where no one feels alone or isolated and people are able to find the journey to recovery that suits them after this difficult time.” 

Emily van de Venter, Associate Director of Public Health Warwickshire, said: “We are committed to helping people to be as safe, healthy and independent as possible and encouraging people to look after their mental health is key to this – particularly after this past year. We welcome the week and the wider opportunity it presents for us to start some conversations, normalise mental health challenges and share ideas with people about practical things they can do. 

“Often people are afraid to talk about their mental health experiences because they fear the response they may receive. However, recognising the importance of taking care of our wellbeing and sharing experiences can break down barriers, helping to end isolation and shame that too many people feel when experiencing a mental health problem.    

“As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we are working with Coventry to promote the new Wellbeing for Life website and the Dear Life resource which is a support lifeline. We will also be shining a light on male mental health by sharing real-life stories from men who have used local support to offer hope to others who may be struggling at the moment. 

“We want people to know it is okay not to feel okay an professional help is there if it is needed. There are small things we can all do to feel a bit brighter and more positive about our lives as we get back to doing some of the things we have missed.” 

Elsewhere locally, a horticultural social enterprise in Coventry, Team Springboard CIC, that offers training, work experience and volunteering opportunities in practical horticulture will soon be introducing growing kits that will be available for residents across Coventry and Warwickshire.  Their aim is help to reduce social isolation, improve wellbeing and teach new skills by encouraging people in the community to work outside on purposeful activities in the natural environment.  

The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust have produced this fun bingo card to use during Mental Health Awareness Week and will be launching ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’ as an ongoing theme through their social media. They aim to promote it as a ‘weekly bookmark’ to encourage people to access nature to help improve their mental and physical health all year round.  Visit the website to see what events are coming up near you.

The Canal and River Trust have activities taking place across both Coventry & Warwickshire in the coming weeks such as the ‘Lets Fish’, Let’s Ride’ and Nature/Heritage walks. You can visit their website and find out more using their interactive map.

Outdoor swimming reopened in England on March 29 and if you would like to connect with others through swimming in pools, lakes or the wild, or maybe just socialise around water (there is no pressure to get in the water) take a look at Swim and Tonic. A mostly Midlands based group who come together (within Covid restrictions) to share the benefits of being by or in the water and with other likeminded people.

Support for anyone affected by mental health: 

Dear Life has been created by local health and social care professionals across Coventry and Warwickshire. This provides a range of support and signposting to vital services for people who don’t know where to turn for help to address complicated and negative thoughts and feelings. 

For people who can’t access resources online, there is help available to you. Call the free NHS crisis line on 0800 616 171, available 24/7 offering confidential emotional support to residents. 

Anyone struggling to cope can call Samaritans for free at any time, from any phone on 116 123.  

If you have seriously harmed yourself, call 999 or ask someone to call 999 for you. 

Mental Health Awareness Week is organised by the Mental Health Foundation, the campaign to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems. It aims to inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all. 

Coventry City Council