Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 (MHAW), the theme for which this year is nature. According to the Mental Health Foundation one of the key drivers of this theme is the way in which so many of us connected with nature as a way of navigating the pandemic, walking, watching birds in our gardens and tending houseplants.

But nature is central to our psychological and emotional health even outside of a global pandemic, it’s just something that we perhaps forget, especially if we live in urban areas that cut us off from nature.

On its website, Mental Health Foundation CEO, Mark Rowland, describes nature as “our great untapped resource for a mentally healthy future” and says: “It’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world. For most of human history, we lived as part of nature.”

Speaking of its plans for the awareness week, he says: “We 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. We 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.”

LGBT+ Mental Health

The pandemic has disproportionately affected the mental health of young people and those who identify as LGBT+, as evidenced in research conducted by Network Rail and Liverpool-based national mental health charity, Chasing the Stigma, as part of its #ThereIsAlwaysHope campaign.

It found that almost three quarters of 18-24-year-olds (69%) said that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health, with this affecting 65% of those who identify as being LGBT+.

It is unlikely that this struggle will ease with restrictions. The start of MHAW also marks one week until the next phase of lockdown easing – the opening of indoor hospitality and the return of the rule of six for mixing inside private homes. 

While the country is opening up and numbers of cases, infections and deaths from COVID-19 are continuing to fall, this is still an anxious time for many people. Speaking to the Liverpool Echo last week, Chasing the Stigma CEO, Jake Mills, advocated for those who might not yet be ready to ‘get back to normal’ or are finding it hard to adjust. 

He said: “Let’s use Mental Health Awareness Week as a starting point. An opportunity to take learnings from living in a pandemic. Let’s remember to be kind to ourselves and others. 

Just because restrictions are easing doesn’t mean you have to rush out to restaurants and family gatherings. It’s ok to want to stick to Zoom meetings a little bit longer. If you are ready and raring to go – great! Enjoy everything you can – but don’t pressure other people if they’re not quite so eager.  

“And all those months where circumstances meant you finished work a bit earlier, felt more confident saying ‘no’ to an unrealistic deadline or spoke honestly to your boss about your mental health. All the time you had to pick up a book, paintbrush or 1,000-piece jigsaw to fill your time, only to find it gave you a sense of calm – keep it up. All of it. Care for your mental health and that of others shouldn’t end when restrictions do.”

Getting Involved

As part of its ‘Nature’ campaign, the Mental Health Foundation is inviting people across the UK to #ConnectWithNature and share what it means to them, suggestions include taking time to experience nature during the week, taking a video, photo or audio recording and sharing it to inspire others, or simply talking about nature in your workplace, school or with friends and family.

However you plan to mark the week, if you are finding things difficult and need help or support, please remember that there is always help available. Visit Chasing the Stigma’s Hub of Hope, a free app that allows you to find local and relevant help for a wide range of concerns, or contact Samaritans, by calling 116 123 free from any phone or 0330 094 5717 (local call charges apply).


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LCR Pride Foundation is a registered charity in England & Wales, no 1185167. Registered Company 11754074.