One in four 17 to 19-year-olds in England had a probable mental disorder in 2022 – up from one in six in 2021. The pandemic, social inequality, austerity and online harm are all fuelling a crisis in which NHS mental health treatment referrals for under-18s have increased to more than 1.1m in 2021-22.
In an average classroom, ten children will have witnessed their parents separate, eight will have experienced severe physical violence, sexual abuse or neglect, one will have experienced the death of a parent and seven will have been bullied.
Research shows that 75% of all serious mental health issues manifest by the age 18, which is why early intervention is vital. Yet worryingly, an increase in both demand and need has put even greater pressure on an already under-resourced NHS mental health service. Of the parents whose children are unwell and who seek help, only 25% receive NHS support. Even if referred, however, young people often face long waiting lists for support. About 20% of young people with mental ill-health wait more than six months to receive care from a specialist during which their condition usually gets worse.
According to the Chief Medical Officer, as many as 25% of all adolescent mental health problems are preventable through early intervention and support. In response, the NHS report Future in Mind advocates the need for a more accessible, locally organised and responsive system that prioritises prevention, early intervention and resilience and a strengthening of relationships between family and friends.
How The Wild Mind Project Can Help
The Wild Mind Project programmes get young people out into nature, mindfully observing the natural world or doing activities such as conservation work or gardening. This is combined with a range of creative activities, meditation and cooking on an open fire.
Evidence suggests that spending time in the natural environment can improve mental health and wellbeing. Nature reduces neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex which can alleviate symptoms of depression. It also reduces anxiety, facilitates social networking and promotes social inclusion, particularly in young people. This approach is often referred to as green care or nature-based intervention.
Research also suggests that creative activities can help stabilise young people’s mental health. Art enhances positive mood which increases levels of mental flexibility and creative thinking. Creative activities facilitates cognitive processing which primes for cognitive change.
We create a safe and supportive space that encourages the group’s active engagement with nature and the art materials to facilitate both verbal and non-verbal modes of communication.
The Wild Mind Project runs fully funded programmes that meet for 2 hours weekly for 3 to 5 weeks. These programmes are sometimes specifically targeted at particularly vulnerable groups, such as the young LGBTQ+ community or young people with learning disabilities. We operate in Brighton and Sussex.
We encourage all of our participants to engage in progression activities. Our nature activities often inspire young people to take an active role in local environmental projects, or we encourage them to get involved in other community projects, so they have the chance to ‘give-back’ to society. Giving to others can help protect mental health and provides a sense of purpose.
We already take referrals from organisations like CAMHS. If you would like to refer a young person to one of our programmes, please complete our Referral Form. Thank you.
Young people's comment about our progrgammes:
“The concept is amazing, the activities are really enriching and really well thought out. The mixture of learning, creating and then sharing was really stimulating to engage my anxious mind”
“What benefited me the most was the practical activity of producing things, that I could then continue to do out of the sessions. Learning new things about nature helped me gain confidence”
“The programme gave me a structure every weekend, I had something really wholesome and lovely to look forward to every week. It helped me refocus on a task, activity or learning process and had a really positive impact on my wellbeing”
“I will miss you all. I’ve had the best time, it’s been the highlight of my week. Thank you so much”
“I think this is the best activity programme that could be prescribed to young people with mental health issues and I really feel happy with what’s come out of it, and I’ve made a supportive group of friends – I would encourage anyone to do it and if I could I would love to do it every week”
“Programme has DEFINITELY helped me. It’s taught me so much about nature, myself and creative processes”
“Thank you SO much – it’s been amazing and I’ve learnt a bunch of new skills. It’s really helped my mental health – I’ve been having a tough time at work and being able to focus on something creative and healthy has been amazing (and I received three new job offers this week so it must be working!)! I loved meeting everyone and I had such a great time painting and whittling!”
“It has been amazing to do the sessions as it is really calm and relaxing. Being in nature has allowed time to unwind and socialising with fellow LGBTQ+ people has been lovely!”
“You are very welcoming and supportive and provide the perfect environment. I’ve also become more interested in nature”
“I didn’t know what to expect but I’ve loved it”
All staff working with young people have received safeguarding training and are fully aware of their particular responsibilities, in line with our Child Safeguarding and Adult Safeguarding policies. All staff working with young people are Enhanced DBS checked. Please see Safeguarding for full details.
A trained first aider and mental health first aider attend all our programmes.
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality”. Plutarch