It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Here’s why the theme is Nature

This week is the 21st Mental Health Awareness Week – one of the biggest awareness weeks in the UK and worldwide. It’s hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, which sets a new theme every year. This year, it’s Nature.

Nature has provided a much-needed mental health boost to millions during the pandemic. Research by the Mental Health Foundation found that going for walks was one of the nation’s top coping strategies, with 45% of people polled saying that being in green spaces was vital for their mental health during COVID-19.

Wildlife webcam hits soared by over 2000%, and other studies found that people not only spent more time in nature during lockdown, but noticed it more. Connecting with nature is a fundamental human need, and the stress of the pandemic has driven people to rediscover it.

Humans have lived in nature for most of history – our current separation from it has only happened in the last five generations. And we only began to realise the health benefits of nature in the 1960s, when a US study found that hospital patients who had a view of nature from their windows recovered faster.

One of the aims of Mental Health Awareness Week this year is to show everyone the evidence of nature’s power to boost our mental health. It turns out that just being in nature is only part of the puzzle – the way we open ourselves up to it and interact with it is what really counts. Even a small amount of contact with nature can ease loneliness and prevent distress.

Nature isn’t a luxury – but not everyone has access to it. 13% of households in the UK have no garden, and teens are more disconnected from nature than any other age group.

This week, one of the main aims of the Mental Health Foundation is to urge the government to treat nature as a basic need and make it available for everyone. The other is to inspire people to connect with nature more and notice how it affects their mental health.

They’re asking everyone to spend some time noticing and celebrating nature this week, and to post a nature photo, video or audio recording to social media and inspire others by sharing their experiences, using the hashtags #ConnectWithNature #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek