As we head into national Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May 2021), we're reiterating all the ways we can support our mental health and wellbeing.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week focuses on ‘connecting with nature’, and we know more than most how outdoor pursuits can benefit health and wellbeing.
Owners of Grimsby Garden Centre, we use the facility to get people from disadvantaged backgrounds and individuals with mental health difficulties back into work by offering them skills, training and employment opportunities.
Grimsby Garden Centre is also a not-for-profit organisation which means that any profit made by the centre goes back into its upkeep and straight into NAViGO, to be used to improve mental health services across North East Lincolnshire.
And, on average, NAViGO also provide over 5,500 hours of horticultural therapy a year.
NAViGO deputy chief executive Simon Beeton said: “Over the last year, more and more of us have turned to nature to cope with lockdown, break the isolation and to simply try and reconnect. It has proved to be a vital coping mechanism for so many people.
“This is something we’ve always known at NAViGO – we use horticultural therapy to support individuals in their recovery and we’ve really seen how it can allow people to relax, open up and interact.”
NAViGO community representative and volunteer John Tucker knows how gardening has supported him following his own mental health difficulties: “I did 35 years teaching and then I had a mental breakdown.
“I’ve been able to spend time in the garden and less time worrying about other things. It calms me down, it gives me an interest and it gives me a reason to get up in the morning and do things. It’s mindful really.”
We will be using Mental Health Awareness Week to further support connecting with nature and promoting the Mental Health Foundation's hints and tips:
- Find nature – in your garden, the local park, the beach, or the Wolds.
- Get outside – it can lift mood. If you feel daunted, try going with a friend or family member and go to somewhere familiar first.
- Bring nature to you – having plants in your home is really beneficial. You could even try growing your own herbs, veg or fruit. Or get a bird feeder and watch them come to you.
- Use your senses – listen to the birds, watch the bees, stare at the clouds.
- Exercise outside – if you can exercise, try taking it outdoors. Running, cycling and walking can reduce feelings of tiredness, anger or sadness.
- Get creative – take photos, draw flowers or simply listen to music outdoors. You can feel emotionally connected to nature and it can also reduce stress and improve mood.
- Going green – protecting nature can also feel good. Recycle, walk instead of drive or take part in a community clean up.
Grimsby Garden Centre have also produced a useful guide providing local walking routes and hints and tips to spotting wildlife.
Simon added: “We want to support the local community in building on what many people might have only just discovered during the last year – that nature should and can play a key role in maintaining health and wellbeing.
“And we’re really keen to encourage everyone of any age to give gardening a go. We’ve recently provided free Grow With Us gardening packs to every primary school across North East Lincolnshire and we’re also introducing a range of new projects across our sites from allotments to flower beds for our service users and inpatients to be involved in.
“We’re not saying nature is going to solve all mental health issues but it can play a really important role in improving people’s mental health.”
While there are things we can do to support our own health and wellbeing, NAViGO are keen to stress that they offer a variety of services offering professional advice, guidance and therapy.
If you are struggling to cope, are worried about someone you know or need to speak to someone urgently, there is a range of help available.
- The COVID-19 mental health support service offers support to anyone who has been affected by the pandemic in any way. It's free and available 24 hours a day. Just call (01472) 256256 and select option 3 or freephone 08081 968442.
- If you’re in a mental health crisis and need urgent help, call the Single Point of Access on (01472) 256256 and select option 3. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Safespace provides instant support if you’re vulnerable and need assistance with your mental health out-of-hours. You can speak to the team using Zoom or by calling in via telephone, between 5.30pm and 11pm, Monday to Friday.
- Open Minds offers a range of talking therapies aimed at helping you to deal with the effects of stress, anxiety and depression. You can self-refer to Open Minds online.