Partnership to inspire connection with nature for mental wellbeing

Squirrel wood carving at Banham Zoo

Norfolk and Waveney Mind has teamed up with the Zoological Society of East Anglia for a two-year partnership - picture at Banham Zoo - Credit: BANHAM ZOO

One of Norfolk's zoos is to set up a mindfulness garden as part of a new partnership struck up with a mental health charity.

Norfolk and Waveney Mind has teamed up with the Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA), the charity behind Banham Zoo in Norfolk and Africa Alive in Suffolk, for a two-year partnership.

Banham Zoo's woodland adventure

Woodland Adventure, an accessible play park and nature trail at Banham Zoo - Credit: BANHAM ZOO

The announcement coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week, which began on Monday, May 10, and will run all week.

This year's theme is nature and the environment.

Ashley Bunn, director of strategy and business development at Norfolk and Waveney Mind, explained the importance of the partnership.

UEA joins forces with Dereham Town Football Club. Ashley Bunn (Dereham FC chairman) Pictures: BRITT

Ashley Bunn, director of strategy and business development at Norfolk and Waveney Mind - Credit: Archant

He said: "Our charity is busier than ever - 60pc of adults and young people who did not experience poor mental health before the pandemic are now experiencing mental health issues.

"The evidence is clear that access to nature is important for our mental health, something which lots of people discovered during the recent lockdowns.

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“The incredible support and collaborative opportunities with organisations such as ZSEA will enable us to continue to be there for the people of Norfolk and Waveney."

Open space at Africa Alive

Open space at Africa Alive - Credit: AFRICA ALIVE

During this week and beyond, the charities will be providing opportunities for people to experience, share and talk about nature.

Activities taking place will include Norfolk and Waveney Mind having a presence at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive, as well as joint fundraising initiatives and ticket giveaways. Norfolk and Waveney Mind will also provide support to ZSEA to help manage the wellbeing of their staff in the workplace.

And Claudia Roberts, chief executive at the ZSEA, revealed plans for a mindfulness garden to be installed at Banham Zoo.

Banham Zoo managing director Claudia Roberts

Claudia Roberts, chief executive at the ZSEA, revealed plans for a mindfulness garden - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

She said: "Connecting communities with nature is one of our charity’s key commitments.

“We can’t wait to launch our mindfulness garden in June. As well as providing space for quiet reflection, we hope the garden will bring our visitors closer to wildlife and inspire them to become advocates for the natural world around us.” 

Norfolk and Waveney Mind has also launched a new campaign this week to urge people to open up and talk.

Start Growing the Conversation aims to encourage people to connect with nature by growing a sunflower and sharing its journey with the charity on its social media platforms, while initiating the conversation around mental health. 

Use the tag #StartGrowingTheConversation on social media to spread the word and show how your plant is growing. 


The healing power of the natural world 

Mental Health Awareness Week is the ideal opportunity to focus on psychological wellbeing - our own and our family.

Emotional literacy means knowing how to talk about mental health and how to improve it and the best way to intervene when a loved one is struggling.

Nature is the focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Child on a bike smiling and laughing with dad

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from May 10-16 - Credit: Pexels Yan Krukov

Former primary school teacher and play therapist Catherine Lynch of PlanBee shared her tips to help families and individuals:

  • Make time as a family when you can connect with each other
  • Make time to be playful
  • Make time to be relaxed in each other's company 
  • Model the behaviour you would like your children to copy 
  • Set boundaries you all understand 
  • The power of empathy 
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to the people around you 
  • Make time for yourself 
  • Listen to yourself 

Why we need to keep talking about mental health

  • Mental Health Awareness Week runs from May 10-16.
  • One in three GP visits are associated with a mental health issue    
  • Only 28pc of people who complete suicide have been in contact with mental health services in the year before death
  • 125 people each week sadly have no choice but to end their lives
  • If you need help and support, you can call Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline on 0808 196 3494 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also search for the Stay Alive app in the App Store.