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We support the mental wellbeing of young people aged 11 to 25 through nature interventions, creative activities and mindful exercises

How The Wild Mind Project Can Help

According to the Mental Health Foundation, our connectedness to nature is critical to mental health. Nature connectedness is associated with lower levels of poor mental health, in particular, lower depression and anxiety levels.

‘Fresh air and exercise’ has long been recommended as a way to feel better, physically and mentally. Now, evidence shows us that the quality of our relationship with nature directly affects our level of wellbeing. Researchers use the term ‘connectedness’ to describe an interest, thinking about, observing or appreciating our natural surroundings.

Who we support

We support young people experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions that may be resolvable. Most of our programmes are for young people aged 16 to 25, but some LGBTQ+ programmes are also for 11 to 15-year-olds. Any young person under 16 will need their parent or guardian to book them on to one of our programmes. Young people 16 or over can book online themselves. We also welcome referrals.

LGBTQ+

We run programmes specifically for young people from the LGBTQ+ community (programmes are available for 11 to 15 and 16 to 25-year-olds) who need support with their emotional or mental wellbeing. Young people questioning their gender or sexual identity are very welcome. We offer a safe and confidential space to share experiences and concerns where new and supportive friendships can be formed.

Young people

Our general programmes are for young people aged 16 to 25 experiencing mental ill-health.

We engage young people in a range of nature interventions, creative activities and mindful exercises that can improve their wellbeing. They will leave with a toolbox of wellbeing strategies they can use throughout their lives.

Specialist Groups

We occasionally run programmes for particularly vulnerable groups, such as young people with learning disabilities or young carers aged 16 to 25.

If you have a young group you would like us to run a programme for; please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Programmes

The Wild Mind Project has designed programmes to develop young people’s connectedness with nature, enhancing young people’s mental wellbeing. We include activities that involve the senses, such as listening to bird song, smelling flowers or tasting wild herbs. We observe wildlife, garden, forage or learn about natural history, all of which develop that important connection to nature.

We combine this with creative activities such as foraging for plants to make cloth dyes or oak wasp galls to make ink, clay modelling, painting, weaving, woodwork or cooking on an open fire.

Creative activities help young people to express things that they sometimes cannot say in conversation, taking them to another world where they can explore their thoughts and feelings free of the fear of stigma or judgement.

We talk while we work with our hands. Staff act as elders, guiding the conversation as necessary. This is important for all our young people but particularly for the LGBTQ+ groups, most of whom have no other outlet to discuss their sexual orientation or gender identity in a safe, non-judgemental space.

Young people leave our programmes with a toolbox of wellbeing strategies they can continue using throughout their lives. Importantly, they develop a connection to nature and a supportive peer network that lasts beyond the programmes.

More about our work

The Wild Mind Project is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company run by a board of four Directors with varied and many years of experience. Board members have lived experience of mental ill-health, and one identifies as LGBTQ.

Our programmes are fully grant-funded, meaning we can offer them free to young people.

Most of our programmes run weekly for 3 to 5 weeks. However, we now offer LGBTQ+ monthly drop-in sessions. Each session is for 2-hours and typically includes a combination of nature and creative activities.

Young people 16 or over can self-refer by completing our online booking form, or if under 16, a parent or guardian would need to book on their behalf.

If you have a young person you think would benefit from our programmes, please complete our online referral form.

The Wild Mind Project is fully insured. All staff and volunteers who come into direct contact with young people have an enhanced DBS check. All staff and directors have attended the appropriate safeguarding training. At each programme, there is a member of staff with First Aid Training and Mental Health First Aid training.

Our programmes are externally evaluated by Dr Linda Thomson, a Senior Research Associate at University College London. Our evaluation data to date has always shown a consistent and significant improvement in the mental wellbeing of participants attending our programmes.

Please sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page if you would like to be updated about our available programmes.

Our programmes

The Wild Mind Project has designed programmes that improve young people’s connectedness to nature. The unique combination of nature interventions, creative activities, mindful exercises and peer support can benefit mental health considerably. Our programmes can complement or offer an alternative to therapy.

What happens at a typical session?

Each session lasts for two hours and is usually run by Berny and James. They are supported by one or two of our amazing volunteers who usually either have lived experience of mental ill-health and/or identify as queer.

A maximum of ten young people (often less) attend each session.

Our dog, Willa, frequently attends the sessions – if you are allergic or wary of dogs, please let us know beforehand.

The venue

Our programmes take place at a private south-facing plot at Stanmer Organics in Stanmer Park, Brighton, which is bursting with and surrounded by nature.

The 900 square metre plot has a number of ponds, a small orchard, native trees, wildflowers and herbs, a fire pit, and areas of grass.

We erect a large gazebo if shelter is needed. A wood burner, firepit and blankets are available to keep you warm. Camp lights and fairy lights are available if it gets dark. We have the odd deck chair and plenty of camping stools. If you prefer to sit on the ground, we have ground- sheets to sit on if the grass is wet.

We have a quiet, secluded area that you can retreat to if you need time alone.

There are compost toilets 250 meters away. Compost toilets look similar to conventional toilets, but there is no flushing mechanism. The compost toilets near our plot are set up in separate wooden cubicles with lockable doors. You can use toilet paper as normal, but Sanitary products should be placed in the bin provided unless you are sure that they are made of 100% natural materials, which is rare. There is a tap and soap available to wash your hands. Alternatively, if open, plumbed toilets are available at the One Garden, 570 meters away (8 mins walk).

There is a tap with drinking water at our plot, and we offer tea, coffee, herbal teas and hot chocolate. Only cows’ milk is supplied, so if you have any other preferences, please feel free to bring your own.

Directions

We will be meeting each week at The Wild Mind Project plot at Stanmer Organics, Stanmer Park, Brighton, BN1 9PZ.

Bus route #78 goes from Brighton to Stanmer Village. The 78 bus will get you to Stanmer Village Church and then there is a 10 min walk to our plot. 78 Bus Timetable.

Bus routes 23, 25, 25X, 28 and 29 run between the centre of Brighton and the entrance to Stanmer Park. From the entrance, it is about a 20 min walk to our plot.

The nearest train station is Falmer. It is a 25 min walk (1.2 miles) to our plot from the station.

If you are cycling to the venue, you can bring your bike into the plot so it will be safe.

If you are coming by car, there is parking at the Patchway Carpark – parking fees are applicable, but please note that ticket machines do not accept cash. We suggest you register for PayByPhone.

The what3words location is: ///duck.clouds.supper

Please click on the How to find us link for a map of Stanmer Park and videos showing the route from the park entrance and from the bus stop in Stanmer Village.

What happens when you arrive

Arriving for the first time can feel scary, but you are not alone; most people feel anxious. You will be greeted by a member of staff or a volunteer and invited to sit down with the group.

If you join a programme, you will be asked to complete a simple evaluation questionnaire during the first and last sessions. Additionally, at the start and finish of any session (programme or drop-in), you will be handed a sheet with six words. Please indicate your strength of feeling about each word by circling a score of between 1 and 5. A staff member or volunteer will go through evaluations with you and offer help as needed. Grant funders require evaluation feedback from us before they will give further funding. We realise completing forms can be annoying, but it is essential that you please fully and honestly answer all the questions. The data will be collected confidentially, and any presented data will be anonymous.

We also ask you to write your name on a sticky label (with your pronouns if you choose) so we all don’t struggle remembering names.

At the first session of a programme, staff will give a brief introduction. This will include a health and safety talk and a chat about the benefits of nature and creative activities. There will only be a short health and safety talk at a drop-in session.

If you feel awkward sitting and listening, don’t worry; we will provide some fidget and sensory toys, plus pencils and paper you can doodle with to help.

Finally, we will go around the group simply saying our names (and pronouns if you wish). If you don’t want to speak, let a staff member know on your phone or paper, and we can introduce you.

Nature activities

Usually, we spend the first hour doing some form of nature activity. It may be going for a walk around Stanmer Organics to identify wildflowers, herbs, trees or fungi (no prior knowledge required) or to forage for food. It might mean creating or maintaining habitat at the plot, weeding or planting, managing the compost heaps, clearing brambles or nettles, pruning trees, etc. This space is for you, but it needs to be maintained, and we need your help, so please try to get involved. The important point is that time in nature is SO good for your mental health and for getting to know each other – you may be surprised.

Creative activities

The second hour is often spent doing a creative activity. You don’t have to be good at art to benefit from or enjoy this part of the session.  Creative activities are very relaxing and offer an opportunity to chat, if you choose to.

We try to do a broad range of activities, including foraging for plants to dye fabric with or oak wasp galls to make ink from. We might basket weave, do pottery, carve wood, weave fabric, needle felt, lino-cut, draw or cook on an open fire.

Workshops

Occasionally, we invite a specialist in to run a workshop, which typically lasts for the full two hours. This may be Froglife doing a workshop on amphibians, a basket weaver, a wild food nutritionist, a wood carver or a foraging expert, for example.

Meditation

We get that grounding exercises and meditation are not for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it, you should give it a go. We will offer grounding exercises and meditation (generally focused on nature) that you can choose to join, if you wish.

Unable to attend

Programmes may be offered free of charge, but we spend a great deal of time applying for grants and planning each session. Funding is spent on sufficient materials for the number of people who have booked the programme. So, if you change your mind about attending, please let us know as soon as possible.

If you are unwell, then, of course, we understand, but again, please let us know.

If, due to anxiety, you feel you just can’t face it on the day, please let us know; maybe we can help.

Thank you for your consideration.

When the programme finishes

It doesn’t have to end here!

You can, of course, sign up to join another of our programmes.

If you are 16 or over, we will ask you if you wish to join our WhatsApp group so you can stay in touch and share information.

If you are from the LGBTQ+ community and can’t commit to another 3 to 5-week programme, perhaps you might like to join us at one of our monthly drop-in sessions.

We also have a list of activities you can go on to volunteer with – ask Berny for details.

Accessibility

Mobility:

  • The nearest parking is approximately 450m away at Patchway car park.
  • The track leading to the venue is potholed and often muddy.
  • The venue is uneven grass with a number of narrow, often overgrown, uneven paths. It is not suitable for wheelchair users.
  • The nearest toilets are compost toilets 250m away, which are accessed by climbing two deep steps. Alternatively, there are plumbed accessibility toilets at One Garden, approximately 570m away (subject to One Garden opening hours).

Acoustics:

  • The venue is in a private relatively secluded area surrounded by nature. However, there are adjacent plots that may be running events that might create noise.
  • The Wild Mind Project activities sometimes include noises such as hammering, sawing or strimming.

Visibility: 

  • The venue is in an unlit area of Stanmer Park. It can get dark in winter months when we rely on camping lights to see. Please be aware that the track leading to the venue is also not lit.

Quiet area:

  • There is a quiet area with a bench at the venue where you can retreat to if you wish to be alone. Neurodiverse fidget toys and drawing pads and pencils are available.

Donations

It is getting harder to secure funding to run our programmes free of charge. If you are in a financial position that enables you to make a donation towards the cost of attending a programme, we would be so grateful if you could donate £25 or more. Thank you.

Useful Links

If you need additional support or have a mental health crisis or emergency, see our Useful Links page for a range of organisations that can help.

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Online booking form

Online referral form