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Mental wellbeing

Improving mental wellbeing
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Positive mental wellbeing helps people feel more confident, energetic and able to take part in other activities. In fact, our evaluation of both the Wellbeing 1 and Wellbeing 2 programmes found a one third reduction in depressive symptoms amongst participants. Through our research, we’ve seen that a number of factors can improve an individual’s self-confidence including:

  • Social interaction, friendship, solidarity, support
  • Sense of progress through gaining new skills and knowledge
  • Sense of progress in physical health, fitness and eating.

Improving mental wellbeing and increasing self-confidence can support other elements of wellbeing too. For example, for those with mental health needs, improving mental wellbeing is an important first step to increase their personal and social wellbeing. This also helps them make changes to their diet and physical activity levels

What works

According to our learning, when creating a mental wellbeing project, it is important to consider the following:

  • Social interaction
    Together with a routine, social interaction can help people feel more energetic and better about themselves.
  • Physical activity
    Exercise can help improve mental wellbeing, and improved mental wellbeing can lead to increased physical activity. Gardening projects have been seen to be particularly good at sparking this cycle.
  • Learning new skills
    Projects which teach new skills help increase participants’ self-esteem, and through this they are able to gain a sense of achievements.
  • Specific services and activities
    People with mental health needs benefitted most from: counselling, relaxation, alternative therapies, gardening and community and food growing activities.
  • Project ownership
    Projects that transfer ownership and a sense of responsibility for the activities to their participants often have a strong impact. The sense of responsibility for activities can, in itself, be a cause of improved wellbeing.
  • Peer educators
    It is important to train and support peer educators, and good projects identify leaders to continue the work in their school, workplaces and communities after the initial projects has finished.
  • Lived experience
    To help projects succeed, it is important to engage people with experience of mental health problems to help convey key messages and help to reduce stigma.

These elements should be considered in addition to the ten key success factors of a wellbeing project

This page combines our learning from across a variety of programme evaluations. For copies of the individual programme reports, visit the Health and Wellbeing publications page.