Mental Health Awareness Week has been running for 70 years, and each year sees one week dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of looking after your mental health.
2020 was difficult year for many and we all spent longer at home. Some had to combine this with home schooling and working, and others just missed spending time with loved ones. We were plunged into a ‘new normal’ way of life and this was scary and confusing for many of us.
During the long months of the pandemic, millions of us turned to nature. Research has shown going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies and 45% of us reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health. It seems poignant that this year’s theme should be ‘connect with nature’.
Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health that it’s almost impossible to imagine good mental health for everyone without a greater connection to the natural world. Even small contacts with nature can reduce feelings of social isolation and be effective in protecting our mental health, and preventing distress.
Despite this, many of us are not accessing or benefitting from nature. Teenagers in particular appear to be less connected with nature and around 13% of UK households have no access to a garden. We want to challenge the disparities in who is and who isn’t able to experience nature. Nature is not a luxury. It is a resource that must be available for everyone to enjoy, as basic as having access to clean water or a safe roof over our heads.
Enjoying nature in Lewisham
Although we’re a densely populated borough, Lewisham has some beautiful outdoor spaces which are free for everyone to enjoy.
Our top picks are:
Manor House Gardens, Taunton Road SE13 5SU
The park features a walled flower garden, ornamental pond, fountain, ice-house, cafeteria, children’s playground, community garden, dog-walking area and tennis courts/multi-purpose sports pitches.
Dacre Wood Nature reserve, Honeyfield Mews, London SE23 2NH
This is a small local nature reserve, a remnant of the former Croydon Canal, which later became the garden of a Victorian house. The site’s main conservation interest lies in its ponds and wetlands.
Beckenham Place Park, Beckenham Hill Rd, BR3 5BS
The Palladian-style mansion that gave the park its name now serves as a community centre and café. The park features lake which stood dry for a time but has now been re-established to provide a wild swimming space and wetlands for birds.
Get involved in local nature projects
We’re always looking at ways we can engage with our residents and what better way than enjoying in the great outdoors.
We are currently supporting a project called Grow Lewisham on our Evelyn Estate in Deptford. Grow Lewisham’s aim is to create a food growing hub for the Lewisham community. This will support residents in Lewisham, giving them the skills and resources needed to start healthy food projects in their own neighbourhoods.
This project hopes to engage residents from the BAME community, however it is open to all residents. More information can be found by visiting spacehive.com/grow-lewisham. Look out for more information on other projects like this in the south of the borough.
Sydenham Garden is a unique well-being centre utilising its gardens, nature reserve and activity rooms to help people in their recovery from mental and physical ill-health in Lewisham. You will need to be referred by a professional for this project and more information can be found by visiting sydenhamgarden.org.uk/
Raiders netball club
Raiders Netball club are partnering with Lewisham Homes to promote netball on the Honor Oak Estate. For more information contact Maureen on 0795253607 or Yvonne on 07533580792 or email email@example.com.
For more information on these projects please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 08000282028 and speak to our community engagement team.
Top tips to make the most of nature
- Experience nature: take time to recognise and grow your connection with nature during the week. Take a moment to notice and celebrate nature in your daily life. You might be surprised by what you notice
- Share nature: Take a photo, video or sound recording and share the connections you’ve made during the week, to inspire others. Join the discussion on how you’re connecting with nature by using the hashtags #ConnectWithNature #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
- Talk about nature: use our tips, school packs, research and policy guides to discuss in your family, school, workplace and community how you can help encourage people to find new ways to connect with nature in your local environment.
Connecting with others
We all go through stressful events from to time that can change our normal behaviour. Short-term changes to behaviour are common. We may feel more stressed, angry or sad. These feelings are not always a sign of mental illness. But sometimes this can be the start of a bigger issue. Talk to a friend, family member or book an appointment with your GP. There are also many other agencies’ and helplines who can provide free and confidential support. Here are a few:
- mind.org.uk Mind provideadvice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem
- mentalhealth.org.uk their vision is for a world with good mental health for all. Their mission is to help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health.
- kooth.com digital mental health support for children and young adults. Koothis an anonymous site which helps children and young people to feel safe and confident in exploring their concerns and seeking professional support.
- barnados.org.uk Barnados help children through the trauma of sexual abuse and exploitation, they also support families through domestic abuse, mental health problems, prison sentences, asylum seeking and much more.
- SHOUT is UK’s first free, confidential, 24/7 text support service. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and need mental health Text 85258 or go to www.giveusashout.org
- samiritans.org or if someone you or someone you know is in crisis call 116123 (24 hours a day)