UP CLOSE in Teddington with the Wild Mind project: Supporting young people’s mental wellbeing

The pandemic has affected the mental health of millions of people. Support is vital but how easy it is to access can depend on where you live or who you are.

World Mental Health Day 2021 aimed to help raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and fight mental health inequality. And with COP26 this week, nature and the environment are at the top of the agenda.

That’s why this week in Teddington, we’re spotlighting The Wild Mind Project, a community enterprise and Co-op Local Community Fund Cause which uses nature to support young people’s wellbeing.

Set up in 2019, the project offers free workshops to 10 to 25 year olds in the borough who are struggling with their mental health.

The classes take place over four to five weeks and involve weekend activities at an outdoor space in Richmond upon Thames, such as Crane Park in Twickenham or Bushy Park in Teddington.

The initiative is based on scientific research showing that time spent in natural environments can help reduce stress in humans - for example, natural sounds trigger less cortisol than those of urban environments.

The project helps build wellbeing with outdoor activities (Image: The Wild Mind Project)

This is well-known in other countries such as Japan where ‘tree-bathing’ is now a common prescription for mental ill-health.

Importantly, for young people who are faced with ever present screens and a 24 hour news cycle, the Wild Mind project helps them take a break and return to nature.

Gardening, mindful walks, conservation work and creative activities are all part of the classes which typically take place over two hours.

These therapeutic activities also absolve young people from the pressure to talk, which is useful for those who feel uncomfortable in one-to-one counselling sessions – more commonly thought of as a route to mental wellbeing.

Founder Berny Simcox adds that the Wild Mind project is especially important for LGBTQ youth in the borough, many of whom suffered suicidal thoughts and feelings of isolation over the pandemic.

The sessions also include creative projects and time for talking (Image: The Wild Mind Project)

As the Wild Mind Project is outside it was able to keep going longer than other services, and putting children together in groups created a sense of community – with many keeping in touch after workshops end via WhatsApp.

Teddington Co-op members also help fund the project’s activities by choosing it as their Local Cause to support. This means that every time they buy selected Co-op brands and products, they are contributing to the Wild Mind Project.

Click here to learn more about becoming a member of the Co-op.

One in four of us experience a mental health problem in any one year. That’s someone in every family, workplace and friendship circle.

In the UK it's around 14 million people. That's why Co-op is working in partnership with Mind, the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and Inspire to bring communities together to support mental wellbeing.

Co-op members help to support local causes like this (Image: Ellie Brown)

To help you look after and find support for your and others mental wellbeing, Co-op created Be Kind To Your Mind. It includes activities from Co-op and its partners as well as general tips and how to seek support from Co-op’s charity partners, Mind, SAMH and Inspire.

If you need support with your mental health or know someone that does, the following can help:
• contact Mind for support in England and Wales on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday), text: 86463 or email [email protected]
• text SHOUT for support anywhere on 85258

Co-op membership helps support Co-op’s national charity partners and Local Community Fund causes. When you buy selected Co-op branded products and services, 2p for every pound spent goes to you and Co-op gives the same to local communities. See www.coop.co.uk/membership

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