Connect with nature this Mental Health Awareness Week

People in Oxfordshire are being encouraged to take a step back and try and connect with nature this Mental Health Awareness Week (10 to 16 May 2021).

The theme this year is how people can rediscover the fundamental human need to connect with nature.

Rosie Rowe, Oxfordshire County Council’s Assistant Director for Healthy Place Shaping, said: “Many people have become particularly aware of the psychological and emotional health benefits that nature brings us during the pandemic.

“Research from the Mental Health Foundation has found going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies and 45 per cent of us reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health.

“However, there are still many barriers in the way for many, such as a lack of garden, and so this Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to do all that we can to raise awareness and encourage everyone to connect with the natural world, by going for a walk in your local park, or trying one of the many footpaths or canal paths in our lovely countryside.”

The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to share their stories of how nature has supported their own mental health. Here are three ways to get involved:

  • Experience nature: Take time to recognise and grow a connection with nature during the week. Take a moment to notice and celebrate nature in daily life.
  • Share nature: Take a photo, video or sound recording and share connections to inspire others. Join the discussion by using the hashtags #ConnectWithNature #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
  • Talk about nature: Discuss with family, school, workplace and community about how to encourage people to find new ways to connect with nature locally.

Mental Wellbeing Grant Schemes have been funded by Oxfordshire County Council’s public health team to improve the mental wellbeing of Oxfordshire residents. £72,000 was available to local community groups to support hyperlocal, grass root projects. A total of 75 applications were received and funding has already been awarded to six projects across the county, aimed at people of all ages and population groups to improve their mental wellbeing.

One of the successful organisations, Oxford City Farm, provides opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with farming and food production, animals, nature and each other. The project will run community farming volunteer sessions to enable people to experience the positive effects and benefits that nature has on mental wellbeing. Read more about their story by visiting oxfordshire.org/project/oxford-city-farm/