“Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health, that it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world.”Mental Health Foundation.
It can’t have escaped many people’s notice that the theme of last weeks’ Mental Health Awareness Week was nature, during which the Mental Health Foundation reported that 70% of UK adults said ‘being close to nature improved their mood’. This certainly resonated with me.
I work for a large corporate company, and through my job I have had the opportunity to train as a mental health first aider and helped set up the company’s Mental Health program. Talking about mental health and breaking down the stigma of mental illness is hugely important to me after I supported my husband through a long period of mental ill-health and hospitalisation.
Nature is also a passion of mine, and its importance in my own mental health became apparent following the death of my Dad 14 years ago. Struggling with grief and depression, I found immense relief when completely absorbed in nature; usually observing birds, listening to them and learning their songs. Through spending time in nature, finding comfort in the cyclical nature of life, I was able to find my way back to good mental health. Now, whenever I feel particularly stressed or sense a low mood creeping in, I get myself over to Warren Farm and spend time listening to the skylarks and yaffling woodpeckers and looking for kestrels. It never fails to revitalise me. Over the last four years I’ve benefitted from the knowledge and support of the EWG community on Facebook, or even better, joined a volunteering day.
At work, whilst planning the program for Mental Health Week an event with Sean seemed the perfect fit, and the response from the business was incredible. With more than 80 people joining the video call, Sean had a captive audience listening to him share his own story of mental health, from his career as a vet to how and why he created EWG. The response to Sean’s talk has been fantastic, with employees planning a nature garden and setting up volunteering days with EWG and other nature groups. My own team are desperate to join a bat walk (followed by a visit to the pub after 😉).
Thinking about the connection between good mental health and Nature has reminded me of how lucky I am to live in the Ealing borough with such amazing access to green spaces, and to have the EWG share their knowledge of the extraordinary biodiversity in the area, as well as offer a place where like-minded people can come together and share their love of nature.