13/05/2022 • What we believe

Mental Health Awareness Week: A review

Earlier this week, we caught up with Crystal, Resident Engagement Manager, and discussed the plans for Mental Health Awareness Week at the Barnsbury Estate in Islington. Today, Communities & Partnerships Director, Marcus Bate, is here to tell us how it went.


Hi Marcus. Great to see you - albeit a little sunburnt - on the tail end of Mental Health Awareness Week. We're eager to find out how it went. What was your highlight?

For me, my personal highlight was just a few hours ago where I joined the Friends of Edward Square, a group of volunteers who work together to improve their local park and use it as a place to bring people together, at All Saints Church Garden to help out with some gardening. It was great to get stuck in and get chatting to the residents. I thoroughly enjoyed a few hours away from my desk in the sunshine, doing something that will benefit the local community.

There was a range of activities taking place this week. Can you tell us more about those?

What's great about this week is there's been something for everyone. We've been really deliberate about creating unique, and most importantly accessible, activities and get-togethers for residents at the Barnsbury Estate. Some of the sessions already existed so it was really important to publicise the fantastic work that Newlon Housing and Islington Bangladeshi Association have put in to support residents' wellbeing. There have been 17 activities across the week, the last of which are taking place tomorrow. They've ranged from exercise classes, meditation sessions and gardening, to a tea party and arts and crafts. There was an arts and mindfulness activity especially for mums. The tea party was exclusively for the over 60s. We've also spread the events across a whole week, with varying times, so we're sure that every resident has had a chance to get involved.

Did the residents share any feedback on the activities?

Indeed. Just today in fact. Miriam, Chair of Caledonian Park Friends Group and Treasurer of Friends of Edward Square who joined us this morning, shared something really special actually. Miriam shared with the group that she's suffered from anxiety in the past and she told us how important and beneficial to her mental wellbeing it is to be involved in tasks and activities that help others. She felt it gave her a purpose. Spending time doing something like gardening - where we cleared some brambles from the path - the fact that lots of people will walk through there and benefit from her work, gave her a sense of accomplishment and made her feel more confident. There's something great in feeling useful, together. That's not to mention the benefit of physical exercise for mental wellbeing. We were gardening for 3 hours earlier. In Miriam's words - stealthy exercise! Although I should remind others, make sure you're wearing suncream when flexing your green-fingers.

Crystal shared with me earlier in the week that an attendee of the meditation class who usually struggles to sleep, had a full night's sleep after the class! Another piece of fantastic direct feedback.

I really got the sense that residents appreciated the time spent with them, and the initiative to organise these activities for them - I think having the small, intimate groups played a part in that enjoyment. A big thanks to the local people and organisations who helped with the events this week like Paul who ran our meditation and mindfullness sessions and also works at Culpeper Community Garden who do some fantastic wellbeing outreach for the community.

We'll be asking for a little more formal feedback from residents next week to find out the impact each session has had on them, so we can decifer which activities we should run again next year and elsewhere at our other developments. Plus, we'll be asking for ideas of what else we could try out next time.

Having been mentally unwell in the past, coming out to nature has given me multiple benefits of fresh air, meeting new people, feeling useful and exercising by accident!


Chair of Caledonian Park Friends Group and Treasurer of Friends of Edward Square

It sounds like the week was a real success. Will we be rolling out initiatives like this elsewhere?

Definitely. I think the great thing about Awareness Weeks is that we as a team can put a real focus on a particular topic or issue that's important to our residents. For instance, this week the execution of the Mental Health Awareness Week program of activities was on 4 of our team members' goals, or top priorities, for the week - including myself. This means we've spent quality time shining a spotlight on mental wellbeing - in particular, the issue of loneliness - this week.

Keep your eyes peeled for a Wellbeing Week with our residents at Friary Park, in Acton, where we hope we'll be just as successful in making a positive impact on the residents there, taking learnings on what went well this week. 

Outside of these initiatives, we're typically running or involved in a resident event 5 or 6 days a week. So, while this week has been unique in there being 17 events for residents to engage with on Mental Health Awareness Week, we're always engaged with the residents every day. On a typical week we're running coffee mornings, drop-in sessions just to chat and catch up or discuss any design ideas or concerns for the scheme, and of course celebrations of various kinds.

Speaking of celebrations, we've got the Resident Submission Party happening next week, is that right?

Yes! On Wednesday 18th May we've organised a party for residents to celebrate the planning submission for the new Barnsbury Estate. It's been weeks in the making and it's set to be a great event, but, more on that next week!

Looking forward to it. Thanks, Marcus.

In case you missed it, check out Crystal's Q&A on Mental Health Awareness Week here.

Nature works whilst you’re not there and is incredibly forgiving ... once you work with nature it works with you and you can bring it into your life to help.


Chair of Caledonian Park Friends Group and Treasurer of Friends of Edward Square