By Pete Crawford
Director of Learning and Engagement
Today is World Mental Health Day. The focus this year is on children and young people’s mental health. Although it can feel like there is always a ‘Day’ highlighting some cause, this one has some grim statistics attached to it. I apologise if these are upsetting, but these are supplied by Public Health England: 1 in 10 of those aged under 19 have a diagnosable mental health illness. Half of all mental illnesses are established by the age of 14. Suicide is the most likely cause of death for someone between the ages of 10-19 and 20-34, not illness or accident.
What has any of this got to do with wildlife and conservation? Well, there is now significant evidence that time spent outdoors and having a love of nature can have significant positive benefits on mental wellbeing. This is not to replace medication, counselling or other treatments, but to complement them.
We know from our own work, with the NHS Partnership Trust, that we can observe and clinically measure the benefits of our Wellbeing in the Wild programme. We do not have to work in a designated nature reserve, just a nice park will do. But it does need to be more than a concrete square or scrap of short-mown grass on the edge of a housing estate. If a space can help people thrive, nature will probably already be thriving. The song of a blackbird, spring flowers, autumn colours, can all lift a person’s mood and spirit. We want to help people get closer to nature and for nature to get closer to you. A wildlife-rich Sussex will also be a place for healthy happy people. Take ten minutes to enjoy this autumn day, to notice nature, to talk to somebody.
(If you have been upset by the issues raised in this blog please contact the Samaritans by phoning 116 123 or email email@example.com.)