Mental Health Awareness Week: It's OK To Say celebrates annual event

It's OK To Say charity founder Stacey Turner at St Albans Cathedral.

It's OK To Say charity founder Stacey Turner at St Albans Cathedral. - Credit: Michelle Wiggett

St Albans based charity It's OK To Say is pulling out the stops for Mental Health Awareness Week (May 10-16).

The theme of this year's week is how using nature and the outdoors can improve mental wellbeing.

Charity founder Stacey Turner explained: “What this means for our city is a reminder that it is OK to say, to acknowledge that everyone has mental health and to acknowledge any struggles within ourselves and put things in place to support.

"The health of the mind is vital and helps carry an individual through each day.

“You will see St Albans Cathedral boldly illuminate in turquoise every evening, providing a cathartic and comforting light, offering solace. This is the third year It’s OK To Say has aligned with the Cathedral.

"Throughout the week, you can talk to the day chaplains about any worries, you can follow on the Cathedral's social media for evening prayers and on Wednesday evening for the Alban Devotion.

"There will be a charity bake sale in the café, as well as a cuppa and chat morning with Bob Golding as our guest. We’ll pop the day and time on our social media!”

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Throughout the week the charity also has plans alongside Oaklands College and Westminster Lodge, and will be hosting bird watching and a nature walk.

"This week is a very special week where we usually visit various places, however due to Covid, things are a bit different this year. 

“I am particularly pleased to see this year’s theme is nature as it allows the opportunity to talk about a therapy called ecotherapy. Ecotherapy explores and allows appreciation of the natural world.

"Many of us do this naturally by getting out and about, however ecotherapy sessions are run by professionals in green spaces with a focus (structured or casual) and may sometimes include talking therapies.

"Ecotherapy may also be called green therapy/care, horticultural therapy, and forest school for the younger ones. An activity is undertaken, so that the focus is on a nurturing element rather than on the person's health.

"It is not about deflecting, it’s about using the opportunity to immerse into nurturing, taking pride, learning new skills, growing something in a supportive environment. Gently caring for something can encourage you to care for yourself.

"It is a bit like ‘Walk and Talk’ therapy, the act of doing has a huge impact in many ways and for many removes the pressure of face-to-face talking.

“Your body naturally responds to the great outdoors, which is why sensory gardens, allotments, the sun and the desire to be near water are all so fulfilling, like a beautiful top up of ‘feel good’.

“You don’t have to join a group if it’s not your thing, but it can help you make new connections, gain peer support and feel involved. For some, a small step of bringing more plants inside to nurture and gain benefit from is rewarding, it does not need to be anything big.

"Simply trying to add in five minutes of paying attention to nature in your everyday life can be warming and a real boost to your mental wellbeing. It’s about doing what you find relaxing, paying attention, being in the moment and really
feeling the benefits.

“It’s an excellent opportunity to get the children out gardening and talking about feelings, emotions and how it helps to look after ourselves, just as we’re looking after our plants. It might be a hike finding the best sticks and den building with a picnic. It might even be craft activities inspired by nature, whatever you choose place emphasis on the connection and conversation it brings. Explain that it is Mental Health Awareness Week and that it’s OK to say if you’re sad or going through a hard time.”