Members of the Asian Resource Centre of Croydon's Visible Elders Group

Each year, approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health issue (Mind, 2017).

In recent years there has been a drive for more open conversations about mental health, and this is exactly what Mental Health Awareness Week does. The week is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and runs annually from 13-19 May. It aims to inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all.

People living in areas experiencing disadvantage are significantly more likely to experience mental health issues. They are at higher risk of experiencing social, cultural, economic, and environmental disadvantages which can affect mental health, including living standards, working conditions, green spaces and control over life decisions.

Prevention measures need to focus on addressing inequalities and strengthening community assets. At the Trust, projects we fund support local people to create new social connections, friendships and a deeper sense of belonging, which help improve health outcomes.

Recent research from our Active Communities programme showed that members of 93 per cent of projects had more friendships and connections as a result of being involved and 91 per cent said people felt less isolated.

Residents were also increasing their knowledge, understanding and skills, which often went hand-in-hand with their increasing self-confidence – and, with that, improved aspirations. Overall, members reported feeling happier and benefiting from a better quality of life.

Getting together regularly remains a key part of the programme’s success, and is exactly what the Feel Good Friday Group does. They run the Living Well project which delivers weekly activity sessions for women affected by physical disabilities and mental health in Northampton.

Claire Leeson, from the project, says that socialising can be vital for supporting mental health. She explained: “We having been discussing mental health as it is close to the hearts of our members.

“It is important to our group because most of our members currently, or at some point in their lives have experienced mental health issues.

“We support people to be ok with how they are feeling - we don't try to cheer them up - we just allow them to be. If a member is struggling then we respect their process and ask them 'what do you need'.”

In Leamington Spa, the Ecotherapy project, run by Achieving Results in Communities (ARC), supports members to spend time outdoors in a social environment while taking part in a range of activities such as cooking and crafts. The project provides mutual support and encouragement between members which is having a positive effect on physical and mental health.

One of the project members said: “Since attending the ecotherapy group my outlook for the week is more positive, I'm gaining confidence in talking to new people and feel more myself when I'm outside in the woods.

“By going to ecotherapy I can clear my head so I can focus on work. It's always nice to be greeted by friendly people and have a hot cup of tea and lunch together. The social side of the group is helping to relieve my loneliness and anxiety.

Asian Resource Centre of Croydon (ARCC) brings people together from across the Asian and minority ethnic communities through a range of activities. They asked 200 people what they thought the key issues most affecting Asian and other minority ethnic communities were and one of those identified was mental health.

Ima Miah, CEO of ARCC said: “Within Asian communities stigma and discrimination because of a mental health issues is common place. Many individuals and families are suffering in silence because of lack of information and negative attitudes within the community.

“We believe mental health is one of the biggest factors of a person’s holistic wellbeing whether that is emotional, social, physical or psychological. Talking about mental health can bring awareness about peoples support needs and save lives.

“Our project gives a powerful message that mental health issues are not shameful, mental health can affect anyone including your family.”

During Mental Health Awareness Week, hundreds of events take place around the country to raise awareness.

Find out more here.

Read more about mental health inequalities.

To read more news from the Trust, click here.

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