09/05/2022 • What we believe

Mental Health Awareness Week with Crystal

We caught up with Crystal Nicholson, a Resident Engagement Manager here at Mount Anvil, on what we're doing throughout Mental Health Awareness Week - and why it's so important for the residents of the Barnsbury Estate.

Hi Crystal. Thanks for taking the time out to chat to us. Can you tell us about your role?

Hi, no worries at all. So, I’m Crystal. I'm a Resident Engagement Manager here at Mount Anvil. A core part of my role takes place at the Barnsbury Estate, in Islington, where I oversee the communications, engagement and events, making sure residents and the wider community's voices are heard on every level. As well as this, it’s really important for us to support the communities in which we impact. This can be done through community initiatives, events and partnerships to support positive socialisation and improved life outcomes for residents. A project as large as the Barnsbury Estate Transformation often has a lifespan of 10 years, so it’s important we provide outreach throughout.

How do you decide what engagement initiatives are important?

We do something called a Resident Sentiment Survey. This is a survey that we send out to all residents on the estate, that’s 350 homes at Barnsbury, to find out exactly how the residents feel about their homes and the areas in which they live, and whether they feel listened to and valued as part of the regeneration journey and through our communications. The survey helps us make sure we're focusing on the right areas to support the community where we operate.

This is the first survey that we've done of this kind at Barnsbury, but because it’s worked so well and has been so successful in influencing and informing future engagements, as well as enabling us to understand what the residents’ needs and priorities are, we’ll be replicating this on other schemes too.

What kind of questions are asked in the survey?

The types of questions that were asked were how residents felt about their home, the building's outdoor spaces, and whether it has a positive or negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. It’s important for us to ensure that we’re supporting the communities that we impact.

What were the findings of the Resident Sentiment Survey at Barnsbury?

The first survey was carried out in December last year and the results showed that the lowest scores were on mental and physical wellbeing. This means that residents' homes and the area in which they live are having a negative impact in supporting their wellbeing. The findings from the survey directly impacted and influenced our project goals as a wider project team to ensure we retain and increase these scores over time.

Why do you think initiatives like the Resident Sentiment Survey are important?

I'm a strong believer in not just building better and more homes for residents, but really making sure that we’re paving the way to improving their lives through things like wellbeing partnerships and continued support. So, we decided to roll out a Mental Health Awareness Week.

Sounds interesting! Tell us more about Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mental Health Awareness Week will run from 9-15th of May, so starting today, which is super exciting. It’ll be a way to encourage the community to come together through a number of free and accessible wellbeing activities. These are things like meditation and mindfulness classes, and we've got some gardeners coming to show us how nature can support our mental wellbeing. We’ll also be promoting some exercise classes, so really tapping into the existing work that is already going on at the Community Centre. 

I think one of the biggest issues for mental health and what we’re focusing Mental Health Awareness Week on this year, is loneliness and isolation. 

How will we know if Mental Health Awareness Week makes an impact?

With the range of activities and events that we've got to support residents’ mental wellbeing this week, we’ll be measuring how residents feel before and after each session and whether or not they have found it to be a positive experience for mental and physical wellbeing. This will help to inform future engagement and wellbeing activities.

While this Resident Sentiment Survey was the first of its kind, we’ll be conducting the survey every year from now until the project ends. Because the project is going to have a lifespan of ten years, it’s important that we take accountability and support residents through engagement initiatives like the Mental Health Awareness Week. After this week, we'll carry out feedback surveys with the residents who attended to find out which workshops were successful and which ones they enjoyed the most. This will help to inform future engagements. We’ll then conduct a Resident Sentiment Survey in a year. So, every year from the start of the project to the end of the project, we’ll be measuring each score in the hope that it will retain and increase.

Can you tell us more about the activities happening this week?

There is a whole range of activities going on during Mental Health Awareness Week and a lot of that is tapping into the existing, amazing work that our partners, Newlon Housing Trust, and existing providers are doing in the community. Examples of this are Culpeper Community Garden, which I like to call a secret garden, which is a small garden about 5 minutes away from Barnsbury. They do a whole heap of engagement to support residents’ mental wellbeing, things like percussion, meditation, mindfulness and gardening, which acts as a really positive way to support people's mental wellbeing. All of the partners that we've used for Mental Health Awareness Week are local and it's really important that we are tapping into and supporting them along the way. 

Sounds great, thank you Crystal.

Thank you. I’m looking forward to this week and keeping you all updated on the progress.