Isy from B&H Food Partnership met with Berny, the founder and CEO of The Wild Mind Project, to find out what The Wild Mind Project does and the impact it has on the individuals it supports.
The Wild Mind Project
The Wild Mind Project works with young people who are experiencing mental ill health and offers therapeutic activities based around nature and art. Berny’s professional background in nature conservation, mindfulness and as a ‘forest bathing guide’ gives her a unique perspective on how nature-based therapeutic groups can support people experiencing mental health challenges.
Working with young people who identify as LGBTQ+ is a core part of The Wild Mind Project. The project offers specific groups for LGBTQ+ young people where they are supported through therapeutic nature-based activities to meet new friends and support their wellbeing. The group offers a neutral environment that is separate from school and is supportive of each individual’s own identity and journey. Berny describes that for the participants, “the group is really important for the friendships they make.” I get the sense that The Wild Mind Project can offer a sort of lifeline to LGBTQ+ young people and can support the young people to build confidence in their identities and work through mental health challenges. The LGBTQ+ groups are supported by volunteers who also identify as LGBTQ+ which helps to facilitate a safe and supportive space.
The incredible impact of being outside
In groups run by The Wild Mind Project, young people are offered an environment where they are able to discuss how they are doing and any mental health challenges they may be facing.
“At The Wild Mind Project, we call ourselves mentors or elders and the young people can discuss things as a group and it’s really informal. They don’t have to discuss anything they don’t want to and because we have these discussions during craft sessions, they don’t need to look at anybody which makes it easier to talk about how they really feel. The incredible impact of being outside may come as a surprise to some.”
Building friendships is a vital part of the project, Berny describes how it is “great to see how their friendships form. So, nature is at the forefront of what we do with the benefit of friendships and the reduction of isolation.” The Wild Mind Project links up young people “who often maintain their friendships long after the course is finished.”
The structure of the sessions usually allows for mindfulness activities to start with, followed by a nature-based activity. The nature-based activity could be a walk, tree identification, conservation work, building bat boxes and planting seeds or plants. After the nature-based activity, there are arts and crafts. Berny explains that “we try to always have an open fire and sit around doing arts activities and we cook together.” Occasionally there are group trips to places such as Brighton beach or a bat walk along the Thames.
Looking forward, Berny hopes to partner with a music trust to incorporate music into the sessions. In the future, The Wild Mind Project hopes to offer overnight stays and offer a weekly drop-in session for young people to attend as when they need additional support.
There are programmes running both in Brighton and South West London. You can find out more about The Wild Mind Project on their website.