Using Nature to Improve Mental Health

The benefits of getting outdoors and enjoying nature are being promoted as part of the annual Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), which takes place between 10 – 16 May.

Durham County Council has agreed to support the week of action as part of the Time to Change pledge, made in October 2018. The theme of this year’s campaign, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, is nature.

Partners including the council’s culture and sport and rights of way teams, Visit County Durham, its Time to Change Hub and the Pioneering Care Partnership, will be raising awareness of MHAW and signposting people to the different activities and support available.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are being used to promote activity, with a different aspect used each day to showcase the wider offer available by Durham County Council and its partners.

Monday’s theme will look at ‘connecting to others’. Human rights organisation Investing in Children is hosting a Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Network event on Tuesday 11 May and a Champions Get Together on Thursday 13 May which is open to anyone who has an interest in challenging mental health stigma and discrimination. Further information is at

Tuesday’s theme will be based around ‘giving’, with research showing that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing. The Heritage Lottery-funded SeaScapes programme promotes beach cleaning as a great way to get out and do something positive for the marine environment, get fit and meet new people. More details are available at

‘Learn’ is Wednesday’s theme. The practice of setting goals is strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing and people can improve their skills and qualifications by signing up for adult learning courses at

Thursday’s theme is to ‘be active’, with regular physical activity associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Walk Durham walks, which take place across the county, have now restarted, with more details at

And Friday will focus on ‘the importance of taking notice’, which can strengthen and broaden awareness. People can visit for inspiration on attractions and places to visit in County Durham, or discover more about the six Northern Saints Trails, which are based on ancient pilgrimage routes. They portray the region’s Saints and their stories, set against a backdrop of the very best of the North East’s attractions, landscapes, places to eat, drink and stay at

Jane Robinson, Durham County Council’s corporate director of adult and health services, said: “At a time like this when we have all been dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to look after our own mental health and well-being.

“I’d encourage everyone to check on themselves and others during Mental Health Awareness Week to make sure they are feeling okay and access the wide range of support on offer if needed. It’s okay not to feel okay and as a council we are committed to helping people improve their wellbeing, both physically and mentally.”

Alan Patrickson, Durham County Council’s corporate director of neighbourhoods and climate change, added: “Here in County Durham we have marvellous countryside and scenic beaches which are ideal for getting out and taking in some fresh air. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week why not take advantage of these locations and also get involved in some of the activities we and our partner organisations are offering to boost your wellbeing and also help reinforce our commitment to improving the environment.”


Durham Coast Blackhall


Hamsterley Forest