Mental health charities are increasingly interested in issues around climate change and are eager to know what role they can play and how they can positively contribute to the sustainable development goals, and the seven wellbeing goals here in Wales. However, as with many other organisations, local Minds in Wales do not always have in-house experts, sustainability professionals, or the appropriate capacity to help them integrate sustainability into their operations. As a result, there is often concern and worry about not knowing where to start and what to do.
The challenge was to create a shared understanding of what sustainability means to local Minds in Wales, so that as a federation they are all on the same page. Local Minds in Wales are in the process of implementing their Network Strategy for 2023 to 2026, where plans around environmental sustainability feature within implementation plan tasks, and they have reached out to us for help.
The session came about from interest expressed by local Mind leaders to find out more about this subject area.
We find that the best way to approach such complex challenges is to make their everyday impacts relatable within our clients’ own experiences and areas of operation. Their concerns and frames of reference need to shape what we are delivering and have space to be aired and explored. That way the priorities or solutions that emerge are tangible and relevant rather than theoretical or out of touch. In this case, we chose to show Local Minds that the current crises their clients are facing are only going to be exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. Since Local Minds are specialists in mental health, we approached the challenge by referring to emotions and lived experiences. That said, rather than showing statistics, we asked them to imagine what it is like to live in spaces affected by climate change and inequalities such as housing, access to public transport, costs of living, community spaces, and job insecurities – the structures that they and the people they work with are already having to navigate.
To deliver this interactive session we relied on key reports: The Links Between the Environment and our Mental Health and What Europe Could Do About It; The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change; and Health and wellbeing impacts of climate change by Public Health Wales (pdf)
How we helped
The CEOs of local Minds in Wales already knew about the importance of green spaces, such as the role they played during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our presentation widened this understanding to the connection between the wider environment and mental health. Attendees left with a full understanding that the challenges that climate change poses to mental health are unlike any experienced to date. Some of the impacts of the climate crisis are already being experienced by Mind clients and people new to the organisations are also accessing their services due to climate anxiety. They also understood that they have a key role to play in society in advocating for climate action as a necessary component of preserving and protecting public mental health.
The local Mind CEOs have already committed to integrated sustainability into their network strategy so that together they can take actions to lower their footprint on the environment, and make decisions that ultimately benefit the communities they operate in, their staff; their suppliers and contractors, and the environment.
They also decided they needed another session with Cynnal Cymru to support them do achieve this.
It was great to have Karolina join us to provide her expert knowledge, understanding and expertise into environmental sustainability and its connection not only to the third sector and our work, but also the prominent links to mental health.
We have made a commitment to developing plans around environmental sustainability as part of our Strategic Plan, and will very much look forward to working with Karolina and the team at Cynnal Cymru to realise these plans. Simon Stephens, Head of Networks (Wales), Mind Cymru
To find out more about the local Mind network and how you can access support through one of our 18 local Minds in Wales, visit the Local Minds web page.