Since 2001 the UK’s Mental Health Foundation have hosted a Mental Health Awareness Week to raise awareness about mental health, to open up discussions and aid prevention of mental health problems.
The week takes place during May in the UK every year. This year’s theme is on ‘Body Image’, and previous themes have been on stress, relationships, loneliness, altruism, sleep, alcohol and friendship. This mental health week is further compounded by the World Health Organisation’s World Mental Health Day, which will take place this year on 10 October.
The focus on mental health and wellbeing has risen over the past few years as statistics from the NHS have highlighted that 1 in 4 adults experiences at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year. Mental health is affecting the working population, with 5 million people being signed off work every year due to mental health problems and a 14% rise in GP sick notes relating to anxiety and stress. In 2017, findings of a Mental Health Foundation commissioned survey were published in the report ‘Surviving or Thriving. The state of the UK’s mental Health’. The report interviewed over 2000 people across England, Wales and Scotland and concluded that the state of mental health across the population is deteriorating. That being said, reports on the state of mental health have also acknowledged a growing awareness and a reduced amount of stigma attached to mental health issues will have impacted on increased numbers reporting a problem. Nevertheless, research sources in the sector agree that it is a growing issue that needs to be addressed, especially amongst the young and in deprived communities.
EPALE UK Competition about adult learning, health and wellbeing: enter between 25 March - 6 June 2019
Given the importance of the topic, EPALE UK have launched a Competition for blog entries to be submitted until 6 June 2019, so that people in the adult education sector can share their stories and raise awareness of how learning can help and maintain the health and wellbeing of adults. Blogs can be ‘liked’ and comments added on EPALE over National Mental Health Awareness Week, starting on 27 May 2019, up until 6 June 2019. The winner, who will win a £100 voucher, will be announced the week commencing 10 June 2019.
For further information and to submit a blog, see our Competition page here.
Focus on learning to maintain health and wellbeing
EPALE’s community of adult learning practitioners have long-advocated the benefits of adult learning on overall health and wellbeing, ranging from community activities to gaining further qualifications and upskilling for better employment prospects. Non-formal, informal and formal learning all play a part; for example, learning can come from activities such as community gardening, arts and crafts, cooking, language learning, theatre groups, sharing of stories, joining local sports teams, learning IT, maths and English skills and more!
A substantial number of studies have recognised the significant positive impacts that learning can have on health and wellbeing, such as reports from the Learning and Work Institute. Initiatives have been activated over recent years to improve the nation’s wellbeing and to advocate learning as a way to improve health and wellbeing.
In 2017 the Government commissioned a study to assess how adult learning can help people manage and recover from mild to moderate mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. The Department for Education released the latest findings of the ‘Community learning mental health project’ study in October 2018, which shows positive results. See the findings of the study in an infographic:
The NHS have 5 steps to wellbeing. As part of this the NHS advises that lifelong learning in any shape or form can improve mental health, wellbeing and increase self-esteem. They also advocate connecting with others, whether that be family, friends or people within your community to give a sense of purpose, provide support and to have someone to share emotions and experiences.
Our EPALE UK Ambassadors give their views too:
Adult education is ideally an integrated part of lifelong learning and personal development; constant curiosity, the pursuit of knowledge, and the acquisition of new skills are the foundation stones of good health and wellbeing. Brain Caul, CRAICNI
Adult learning, health and wellbeing are intertwined and connected. I have recently been working with an NHS mental health peer support provision in Glasgow on a Community STEM learning programme. Adult learning can support development of confidence, self-belief and social inclusion which all impact positively on health and wellbeing. Alison McLachlan, AMC Learn
Adult education can bring a sense of purpose (broadly and meaningfully) to life and for me that's at the heart of mental health and wellbeing. And of course if our mental health is robust, we are so much better equipped for dealing with the physical health challenges life may put our way. Lou Mycroft, Lou Mycroft Culture Change
What's your opinion on the connection between adult learning, health and wellbeing?
Do you have a story or a project that aims to use learning to improve the health and wellbeing of adults in your community?
Submit a blog to the EPALE UK Star Supporter Competition or simply Tweet us @EPALE_UK and let us know!
You may also be interested in:
Community gardening projects can boost health and wellbeing and offer endless opportunities for adult learning (blog) – this blog post considers the positive impacts that community gardening can have on local communities, health, wellbeing, career prospects and skills acquisition in adult learners.
Adult Learning and Wellbeing Seminar at the Belfast Festival of Learning (blog) – our EPALE UK Ambassador Colin Neilands reports on the seminar, provides information on the organisations that champion wellbeing and includes a video featuring speakers at the event.
BREAKING NEWS: ADULT LEARNING IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING (blog) – considers the different ways that adult learning positively impacts health and wellbeing, and discusses five themes that arise in the evidence of this.
Mental Health Toolkit for Employers (resource) – Business in the Community and the Mental Health Foundation have partnered to create a toolkit to help employers implement an effective and positive approach to mental health in the workplace.
Look after your mental health using mindfulness (resource) – the Mental Health Foundation have created a free downloadable booklet that details the benefits of using mindfulness to boost mental health.