Mental Health Awareness Month 2023
Research from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) highlights how, “of those spending more time outdoors since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 70% realised that being in natural spaces was important to their well-being”(1).
Taking time to find and interact with the nature around us can be key to our well-being!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and so for the month on our website and social media we’ll be sharing research on how the outdoors can help our mental health, talking to Leave No Trace Community Members who have expert knowledge in the space, and sharing tips, tricks, and resources for us all to get out safely and responsibly!
Over 90% of participants felt happier (93%) and healthier (92%) after spending time outdoor in natural spaces” (2).
The Outdoors has an amazing ability to lift our mood, or change our frame of mind. However, it can be hard to know where to go. “The Outdoors” doesn’t have to be a mountain or the ocean. It can be as simple as your garden and local park, or it can be accessed through windows and soundscapes.
Resources for Mental Health & the importance of Nature
1. Nature Therapy Ireland share many ways to interact with and connect to nature – today, we’re sharing their post about “stealing their schedule”!
“Sometimes we need to build self care in around our day to day lives and won’t always have the time or resources to book into a retreat, workshop or class in order to ground and come home to ourselves. Why not build your own reset week by adding these nature adventures to your diary! You’ll also find our accessible version for any day you need to go softly or if there are barriers for you in accessing nature with ease”
2. Walk in my Shoes
Walk in my Shoes (WIMS) is the flagship awareness-raising and education campaign of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS), aimed at primary and secondary schools.
The campaign was first established in 2012 when a young man in SPMHS said he wished his friends could walk in his shoes to understand how he was feeling. Since then, thousands of students and teachers from across Ireland have gotten involved, and have been at the forefront of starting a very important conversation about mental health.
Walk in my Shoes work to promote positive mental health, to tackle mental health stigma and to change how people, particularly young people, think about mental health.
Throughout the year, Walk in my Shoes run or offer:
- Free resources for primary school and secondary school teachers to use in the classroom
- Free resources for parents and guardians
- Free resources for young people
- School achievement awards to recognise excellence in mental health promotion
- Short film competitions to tackle stigma
- Transition Year Programme placements
- #MindYourSelfie Day social media campaign, and
- week-long programmes of online activities and pop-up radio stations.
They also host a School Portal, the first of its kind in Ireland, which gives primary and secondary schools nationwide the opportunity to capture and share the great work they’re doing to promote mental health and wellbeing in their classrooms and school communities.
3. Hike Psych – Ireland’s Only Hiking Psychotherapy Practice
Cara Byrne is the founder of Hike Psych – Ireland’s only hiking Psychotherapy Practice. On their website, they explain how hiking therapy is a type of Ecotherapy, where all the processes of a psychotherapy session take place but instead of indoors we go outside. Some of the reasons for this outdoor approach includes how movement stimulates greater blood flow to the brain – which heightens mood, creativity, self-awareness and emotional stability. Cara writes how even just 20-30 minutes in the outdoors is enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels and lower stress!
4. Anxiety & Mental Health – Mental Health Week UK
Within Mental Health Awareness Month, organisations in the UK recognise “mental health awareness week” from the 15th – 21st May.
In the UK, the Mental Health Foundation is focusing on Anxiety.
“In a recent mental health survey we carried out around stress, anxiety and hopelessness over personal finances, a quarter of adults said they felt so anxious that it stopped them from doing the things they want to do some or all of the time. Six in ten adults feel this way, at least some of the time. On a positive note, anxiety can be made easier to manage.”
One of the resources they provide is their Thriving in Nature Guide – a guide for everyone to make the most of our natural spaces for our mental health and well-being.
In their recommendations for coping with anxiety, the Mental Health Foundation included;
- Get moving
Remember, activity doesn’t have to be vigorous; try some gentle stretches, yoga, or seated exercises. Or just go for a walk. Going for a run, swimming, or taking part in a fitness class can give you something else to think about. It needs a bit of concentration, so takes your mind of the anxious thoughts. Any amount of exercise will help.
- Spend time in nature
We know that spending time in nature has a positive impact on our mental health. It can help us feel calmer and less stressed. This can be as simple as tending some flowers in a window box or going for a walk in the woods. Any amount of time doing this is good for us, but to really get the benefit, try to spend a significant period of time – maybe an hour or longer – when you can really connect with nature and immerse yourself.
- Connect with people and talk about how you feel
Anxiety can feel very lonely. Connecting with other people can help a lot. Spend time with friends or meet other people through activities such as volunteering, sport or social clubs, or peer support groups. If you’re able to talk to people about how you feel, it can help to reduce your anxiety. Sometimes saying what’s worrying you out loud can take away its power over you.
5. Mental Health America & Mental Health Awareness Month
“our 2023 Mental Health Month toolkit includes information about how an individual’s environment impacts their mental health, suggestions for making changes to improve and maintain mental well-being, and how to seek help for mental health challenges.”
This year Mental Health America’s focus is on how our surroundings can affect our mental health – find more of their info and resources on their website.
6. European Mental Health Week – 22nd 28th May 2023
“The goal of this year’s Awareness Week is to increase understanding and learning about mental health in our communities, schools, workplaces, and at home so that everyone can thrive and flourish at every stage of life. ”
The European Mental Health Week is a pan-European initiative that aims to raise awareness about the importance of mental health in our everyday lives. Set up and run by Europe’s largest independent mental health NGO Mental Health Europe (MHE), the fourth edition of the European Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from 22 May until 28 May 2023.
This week-long online action is a chance for everyone to exchange about all aspects of mental health, share personal stories of how to cope with difficulties in times of crisis and in general, and highlight the need for action.
Next up in our Mental Health Awareness Month articles – the simple ways we can incorporate the Leave No Trace Principles into enabling our connection to the outdoors to help us all work on our mental health!
Other articles we’ve published: