‘There is something to be wondered at in all of Nature’ - Aristotle
During long months of the pandemic, millions of people turned to nature. The Mental Health Foundation's research on the mental health impacts of the pandemic showed going for walks outside was one of the top coping strategies and 45% of people reported being in green spaces had been vital for their mental health. This is why the choice for the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 is Nature!
Studies showed that during lockdowns, people not only spent more time in nature but were noticing it more. It was as if we were re-discovering at our most fragile point our fundamental human need to connect with nature.
During Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, The Mental Health Foundation will pull together the evidence that demonstrates the powerful benefits of nature for our mental health. They will look at nature’s unique ability to not only bring consolation in times of stress, but also increase our creativity, empathy and a sense of wonder.
It turns out that it is not just being in nature, but how we open ourselves up and interact with nature that counts. They will show that even small contacts with nature can reduce feelings of social isolation and be effective in protecting our mental health, and preventing distress.
Nature is our great untapped resource for a mentally healthy future. 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.
What are the goals for the week?
The Mental Health Foundation has two clear aims. Firstly, to inspire more people to connect with nature in new ways, noticing the impact that this connection can have for their mental health. Secondly, to convince decision makers at all levels that access to and quality of nature is a mental health and social justice issue as well as an environmental one.
2021 is going be a huge year for nature: a new Environment Bill will go through the UK Parliament which will shape the natural world for generations to come; the UK will host the G7 nations where creating a greener future will be a key priority and a historic international UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be hosted in Glasgow in November.
What we can do
During Mental Health Awareness Week, we are being asked to do three things:
Experience nature: take time to recognise and grow our connection with nature during the week. Take a moment to notice and celebrate nature in our daily life.
Share nature: Take a photo, video or sound recording and share the connections made during the week, to inspire others. Join the discussion on how we are connecting with nature by using the hashtags #ConnectWithNature #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
Talk about nature: use the tips, school packs, research and policy guides to discuss with family, school, workplace and community how to help encourage people to find new ways to connect with nature in the local environment.
For more information about this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week visit mentalhealth.org.uk/mhaw or join the conversation on social media using #ConnectWithNature and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek