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What works’ with mental health?

23 January 2014

By Karen Hayer, Ecorys

While many people have heard the statistic  that one in four of us will suffer a mental health problem at some point in our lives,  fewer people know how to deal with mental health issues or how to talk about them. Lottery-funded programmes are helping to tackle this.


Physical exercise and socialising activities are some of the contributing factors that are helping people to tackle mental health issues.  That’s one of the reasons why, having already invested £160m in supporting the development of healthier lifestyles and improving well-being in England, BIG Lottery Fund has made an additional £40 million available through its Wellbeing 2 Programme.

The first phase of the Wellbeing programme was delivered between 2007 and 2012 and an evaluation of this phase of the programme found that– physical activity, healthy eating and mental health are intricately linked, with improvements in one area supporting improvements in the others.  Looking at mental health, specifically, the research found that approximately one in three people who reported having symptoms of depression no longer had those symptoms by the end of the programme.  Significant reductions in stress and anxiety were also recorded three to six months after engagement with the programme ended.


But it’s not just the Wellbeing programme that’s making a difference. Take the Branching Out project, funded through Changing Spaces, as an example. They supported people experiencing mental health problems to work towards recovery and lead valued lives in their communities.

The horticultural project engaged people in gardening and outdoor activities as part of a structured recovery programme in the London Borough of Bromley.

Results from the project found to greatly increase participants’ self-esteem and self confidence which motivated them to become more active and seek other volunteering or work opportunities.

‘I cannot emphasis enough how Branching Out has helped me. It has given me back my self-belief, confidence and self-esteem.’

The project also enabled participants to make new friends which had a positive impact on their mental well-being.

This week, the Lottery-funded Time to Change project, led by MIND and Rethink Mental Illness, launched their new campaign to help tackle mental health stigma. Time to Talk encourages you to do small things like texting, having a cup of tea together or going for a walk. Watch their ad here:

Take a look at the evaluation from the first phase of the Well being programme to learn more from these initiatives.  You’ll be able to read about the impacts on individuals’ mental health and lessons learnt from a range of innovative approaches.  This year, Ecorys will be looking to gather more evidence on the role of the Wellbeing 2 Programme in contributing to improved mental health, as well as physical activity and healthy eating.


Portfolios of projects under Big Lottery Fund’s Well-being programme are currently underway and will be working until March 2015 on wide ranging activities from supporting healthy eating for children, parents and their local communities.   Ecorys have been commissioned to evaluate the impact of the new funding, with a particular focus on sharing learning about project success and approaches to sustainability throughout the next two years.

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