Date: 4 November 2021 

I feel like the world is full of information about mental health now, so different from 30 years ago when I qualified in public health nursing. We know lots about how many people experience mental illness and disorder. There is lots of media attention paid to the factors that affect mental health, how many people are waiting for services, rising percentages of the population affected, the impact of Covid — it is daily news. In fact, as an issue it seems to mirror the climate crisis, we know all about it, figures are updated and published, it seems to get worse and worse, we know we need to take action. So it feels like we should really be in full action mode, doing something to make a difference to tackle this crisis. 

Past CoramBAAF health conferences have delivered much content about children’s mental health exploring, the impact of trauma, developments in neuroscience, young people’s views and experiences, outcomes, inequality and much more. This year it seemed particularly important to return to “wellbeing” as our conference topic. The last 18 months have seen huge challenges for us all, we may have learnt a lot about what is really important to positive mental health and what is not. 

I felt like there are some topics that have not been explored in too much depth at our conferences before and wanted to include. When I was a nurse for children in care my favourite time of year was the summer holidays. Working in a multiagency team, I had the advantage of helping deliver our activities programme. I had many great times, mountain biking, canoeing, camping and singing with children and young people who lived in local foster families and children’s homes. It just felt like we were doing something really positive for everyone’s wellbeing. It wasn’t just fun though, paddling a calming river helped a young man talk through his anxiety issues, the stars helped a young woman talk about the death of her mother, and songs written by children released their emotions for all to hear. These types of activities are often part of family or school life but can also be used in more focused ways to support mental health. I thought it would be interesting at conference to hear directly from organisations that are delivering specific programmes using the outdoors and green space as their therapeutic environment. 

The conference programme is full of stories of people “doing”, whether it be developing their services, working directly with young people or actively sharing their first-hand experiences, and I am very grateful for very busy people taking the time to prepare presentations and join us online for a few hours. 

 

Ellie Johnson, Health consultant, CoramBAAF