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Nature-based mental health programme gets funding boost

Stephanie Hill

A Swansea organisation that supports people with their mental health and emotional well-being has won a funding boost.

Happy Headwork – a team of experts in psychology, therapy, training and sustainable development – has secured funding from Swansea Council as part of a rural anchor project being funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The funding means Happy Headwork will be able to run more sessions of its ‘Head Outdoors!’ programme, which will see participants getting closer to nature by taking part in six-week courses at Penllergare Valley Woods.

More than 30 local people who are either unemployed or over 50 will benefit.

As part of the well-being programme, participants will learn evidence-based psychology for increasing self-compassion and self-confidence. They’ll also learn robust skills for experiencing well-being both in and with nature by taking part in outdoor activities like nature journalling, campcraft and nature-based arts and crafts.

Helping to boost their confidence, they’ll also learn practical skills that could lead to nature-based volunteering opportunities in future.

The programme will be run as an active research programme, supported by researchers from the Sustainable Research Group at Swansea University who are helping Happy Headwork to develop research.

Happy Headwork works with organisations and communities. As well as taking referrals from the Swansea Council for Voluntary Services, they’ve also organised tailored courses for staff at organisations including the United Nations, Oxfam and Refuge, among many others.

Happy Headwork was founded by Stephanie Hill, inspired by a combination of her own journey with mental health as a survivor of the 2004 tsunami and a career in the care-giving sector.

Stephanie said: “We’re passionate about supporting as many people as possible with their mental health and emotional well-being. Our outdoor programmes also strive to encourage people to increase their pro-environmental behaviours. Our ethos is to support wellbeing both ‘in’ and ‘with’ nature.

“A lot of research has shown how connecting with nature benefits people’s mental health, and this programme is based on learning from similar programmes we’ve run in the past.

“We mightn’t have been able to do this without the funding from Swansea Council though the UK Government, so we’re very grateful for the support.”

All applications to the rural anchor project have been assessed by a rural advisory group.

Cllr Andrew Stevens is a member of the group and Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure.

He said: “Anything that can be done to improve people’s mental health and emotional well-being deserves to be applauded, so we’re delighted to be supporting Happy Headwork with grant funding.

“It’s one of many schemes being supported with grants as part of the rural anchor project, which is aimed at benefitting as many of our rural communities and businesses as possible.”

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “We recognise how important our rural communities are to Swansea.

“That’s why we made sure a rural anchor project was one of the key themes of our Shared Prosperity Fund allocation from the UK Government.”

Other schemes to have been awarded funding include the Surf to Success project run by Surf Therapy based in Swansea and Gower, which will work with people aged between 18 and 25 in the criminal justice system. The project will enable them to take part in surf therapy sessions and gain the practical knowledge and skills needed to become surf mentors and coaches and develop the skills needed to gain employment in future.