Now more than ever...
I heard someone say "We're not all in the same boat - we're all in the same stormy sea but in different boats".
This resonates with me as a small business owner, a member of a family, a friend to others and any number of other 'hats'. There are so many different variations of how people's lives have been changed in 2020 by the impact of Covid-19 but I think most people would agree that it has had impact on their mental health.
Non-medicinal routes to health and well-being...
In my previous career I was involved in promoting good quality health information to the public and working with public health and health promotion across the NHS and Social Care. This took on various guises over the years but my eye has always been drawn to promoting public health information and looking for ways that people might benefit from the non-medicinal routes to health & wellbeing. Indeed, the national campaign Health Infomation Week was started by me back in 2005 and is still going strong!
While I worked in this field, social prescribing was initiated. GPs 'prescribe' activities in local community settings, sometimes just signposting to local services and groups or more structured help using link workers. The King's Fund explains it well: Recognising that people’s health and wellbeing are determined mostly by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way. It also aims to support individuals to take greater control of their own health.
Though there is a need for more evidence on the effectiveness of social prescribing, social prescribing schemes may lead to a reduction in the use of NHS services, including GP attendance. 59% of GPs think social prescribing can help reduce their workload which I think we can all agree would be a good thing!
I am an advocate for bibliotherapy and can recommend Reading Well as a starting place for all things about the power of reading for mental health. This is not just about self-help books but about reading fiction for enjoyment too. A note of personal interest (no apologies as it is definitely relevant!): my sister, Nicola Morgan, is an author and her books about teenage mental health, stress, looking after your brain etc are featured in the Reading Well recommended booklists and she coined the term "Readaxation" - the benefits of reading for relaxation.
Gardening therapy - 'hortitherapy' - a new word?
Personally, I can definitely vouch for the benefits of gardening for health and wellbeing - physical and mental! Studies have found that the mental health benefits of gardening are extensive. Not only can regular gardening reduce mental health problems like depression and anxiety, but it can also reduce stress and combat high blood pressure, as well as improving overall physical fitness. The Royal Horticultural Society has a good section on gardening for health & wellbeing with many links to evidence.
Even without the impact of Covid-19 this year, there has been much discussion about the benefits of doing creative activities for mental health wellbeing. Studies show that taking part in creative activities really does have a positive effect on individuals.
Credit: Ukususha / iStock
Current Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, in a speech in November 2018, argued that
"Spending money on encouraging us to play music, experience the arts, and make craft can not only improve wellbeing, but also save the NHS money."
Here are just a few of the many articles:
- The Craft Council - Can craft help solve the mental health crisis?
- Creative Health, by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing 2017 Report
- Great British Creativity Test - 2018 How creative activities can help us manage our mood and make us feel happier.
- Bupa UK Feb 2020 How creativity and hobbies can benefit your health
- Age UK - Creative Participation
Chris and I have been running our pottery & glass fusing classes for over 3 years and have lost count of the number of times people have mentioned how relaxed they felt during and after the session and many treat the classes like a therapy. Getting away from life's stresses and the constant mobile phone reliance, just for a couple of hours using a different part of your brain is so beneficial. Since we came out of lockdown on 4th July, we have been inundated by people asking to book classes - demand for creative therapy has never been so high!
It is rewarding to feel that, in some small way, we are helping people to cope with life, whatever type of boat they are riding this storm in...