The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) and Swindon's IPSUM came together to host an afternoon of music, crafts and food.
Staff from both organisations met with volunteers and service users for a whole host of activities, held at Swindon's Shrivenham road allotments.
WWT and IPSUM had craft stalls, pumpkin carving, a music corner under a gazebo and a campfire and grill, serving root vegetable soup and smores.
Jo Woodhams, Wellbeing Programmes Leader at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust said: "Joining with IPSUM for events gives our various service users or participants the chance to meet representatives from other services, see what they do and decide if they would like to join. That’s happened a lot which has been great.
“There’s a lot of crossover with what we and IPSUM do and we have volunteers working for both IPSUM and WWT. We would love one day in the future to do a more formal joint work."
WWT run the Swindon Wellbeing programme which is for adults with mild to moderate mental health issues. Groups will go out and take part in various nature-based activities and other sessions which aim to improve mental health and wellbeing, and allow opportunities for learning new skills about the local wildlife.
IPSUM is a Swindon-based mental health and wellbeing support centre, located on Milton Road. It offers a range of arts and craft workshops, access to a recording studio and talking therapy sessions.
Jo added: “I think both IPSUM and WWT are both great services in the voluntary sector that people seem to really appreciate and get a lot from. What is so great is that because our services are not within a clinical setting, it doesn’t feel like you’re going to a mental health service.
"There’s also so much peer support and we don’t orchestrate conversations but sometimes we overhear people talking and finding out that they’ve got the same CPN or take the same medication. It’s lovely to witness and that’s one of the best parts of this service – the informal support network.
“This event showcases what WWT are all about - increasing nature connectiveness in people to improve mental health.”
IPSUM Music Studio Facilitator, Mike Beckley, joined in the musical activities with previous service user and volunteer, Craig. The pair brought along their guitars and started sing-a-longs.
Mike said that with winter drawing in, IPSUM and conversations around mental health are especially important.
He added: “I think particularly at this time of year that getting outside and doing these outdoor activities is good for people.
“It’s coming into the winter season now and Seasonal Affective Disorder is prevalent. Anything that can help people feel better about this seasonal change is a good thing. That is what IPSUM is trying to do with the help of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust – sing some songs, bring some happiness, and have a munch at the same time.
“Because of the pandemic, people’s mental health has suffered anyway and we’re seeing a lot more clients. Additionally, we always get more people coming to see us and use our service around this time of year. I think everyone across the nation feels something at this time of year.
“We’re just starting to recognise that everybody has a mental health. Everybody knows about their physical health and in the same way that your physical health can be good or bad, your mental health can also fluctuate. Just like physical health, an individual’s mental health can dip every now and then.
“We help people understand they are not on their own, and that it is quite common for this time of year for people to have a dip."
Leon Smith is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who has suffered with his mental health and wellbeing. He has had support from services provided by IPSUM and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
He said: "I’ve been clean for over 10 months now. Everything is going really well. I started with the WWT, as my plan was to seek out alternative therapy. It’s my personal preference to not take anti-depressants so I started volunteering and getting into wildlife and out into the community. It was about getting away from the old lifestyle and meeting new people. This really helped my mental health and wellbeing.
“I have also got involved with IPSUM and have been writing and recording recovery songs. One of my counsellors said I should write my thoughts down into a journal when I feel anxious. When I started writing, I realised I could make songs out of my words.
“I would recommend the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and IPSUM to anybody that is suffering with their mental health, or anyone in recovery. Poor mental health and addiction are obviously linked closely together. To be honest, I was in the gutter and these services have saved my life."
IPSUM used the autumnal afternoon event to showcase the kinds of crafts and activities that are on offer within the centre. Its activity tables included gelly painting hosted by Nadine, clay crafts with Bethan and a henna table where designs from Molly's own sketchbook could be selected.
Food was provided by WWT Wellbeing Project Officer, Abbi Kent. Root vegetable soup and smores were served to match the autumnal theme.
Abbi said: "I’ve been with WWT for just over a year. I love the fact my job is people-facing, and about supporting others in the community. My passion is nature and I really like helping people through nature and wildlife. It’s fun to bring my passions into my work and educate and hopefully inspire people. I learn from those in the groups I Iead too. It’s a really rewarding job and I feel lucky.
“My job gets me outside and it has been a real lifeline for me throughout lockdown, as I was still able to get masked up and be outdoors."
More information about the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Wellbeing Programme (including Swindon Wellbeing) can be found at https://www.wiltshirewildlife.org/the-wellbeing-programme
Website and social media information:
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust website: https://www.wiltshirewildlife.org/
IPSUM website: https://www.ipsum.care/