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Changing the conversation about mental health | More Than a Shop podcast

The latest episode of podcast More Than a Shop explores the need for new conversations, support networks and funding focused on mental health across the UK.

One in four people experience a mental health problem in any one year. Series presenter Elizabeth Alker chatted to two people heavily involved in delivering mental health services – at a local level and nationally. Whilst this series was recorded and produced before the COVID-19 pandemic, the issues raised will be more pertinent than ever.

Rachel Summerscales spoke as Hulme Community Garden Centre manager (she has since left the organisation), which has operated in South Manchester for nearly 20 years. Whilst the Centre brings the local community together by offering low-cost, ethically sourced plants, first and foremost it delivers an extensive volunteer and education programme through gardening:

“People come to us for a whole variety of different reasons. They're looking for something to be involved with, and to help them move on with their lives. And what they get when they come to us is to be part of a team, to make new friends, to have a sense of purpose and to build confidence, really, and just to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and come along.”

Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at mental health charity, Mind. Mind offers advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem and campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding of mental health. The charity is national and has around 130 independent Local Mind organisations embedded in local communities. 

“To keep our mental health information and services up to date, we involve people who've got experience of mental health problems. The team has their own experience. They do a lot of work in social research; but they also spend a lot of time talking to people, understanding what the issues are that people are facing; road testing phrases, how we talk about certain issues; and making sure it makes sense to the people that we want to use it.”

“But it has to be practical too. We want people to read about mental health and understand more about how they can perhaps access their rights and entitlements; about the kinds of treatments that they should be asking for, what's available to them; the kind of questions they might want to be asking their doctor; or perhaps even how they can look after themselves or a friend or family member. So it's all about information that gives practical advice rather than just information.”

Stephen talks about Mind’s charity partnership with The Co-op, which launched in October 2019 – also in partnership with the Scottish Association for Mental Health (Scotland) and Inspire (Northern Ireland) – to bring communities together to improve mental wellbeing:

“It's still early stages, but a key thing that we want to be doing with The Co-op is working through our Local Mind network [and with SAMH and Inspire], working with communities to understand what's going to work for them in terms of developing mental health resilience in those communities. This work will reach across the whole of the UK, so we're really excited by it.”

The episode also features London-based Lifeafterhummus Community Benefit Society, a community owned and run organisation delivering affordable cookery and healthy living classes which have not only educated people about nutrition, but brought people together and had positive impacts on mental health and isolation. 

Farrah Rainfly, one of the founders of Lifeafterhummus, started to notice more people were feeding back about the positive impact the cooking sessions were having on their mental health:

“Somebody who's been coming repetitively, has said ‘these classes are helping me with my anxiety’ – that is that person's lived experience. They're saying to you, ‘Yeah, it's a cooking class, but it's also helping my well-being’.”

One regular attendee said: “I struggle with a little bit of social anxiety sometimes. Some evenings it's a good opportunity just to practice being around people; other evenings or it's more relaxed and I come away feeling that it’s been really worthwhile.”

Listen to the full More Than a Shop podcast episode Changing the conversation about mental health and subscribe to future episodes at – or wherever you get your podcasts. Transcripts of the episodes are available.

The More Than a Shop podcast is a collaboration between Co‑operatives UK, The Co‑op, Co‑op News, The Co‑operative College and The Co‑operative Heritage Trust.The series is presented by Elizabeth Alker and was produced by Geoff Bird on behalf of Sparklab Productions.

Please note: The More Than a Shop series was recorded before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. We felt it would seem odd to release further episodes without acknowledging what’s happening. We considered delaying or adapting the series, but decided that this is perhaps the perfect time to consider new ways of doing things as we all imagine a different future. We hope More Than a Shop provides some light and inspiration in these difficult times.

Written by Leila O'Sullivan
Updated: 19/05/2020