Four Mental Health Awareness Week ideas on a budget

Not everything that you do to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week needs to cost money. Some of the simplest things you can do cost next to nothing – and will still be highly effective at starting conversations and understanding mental health in the workplace.

Here are 4 budget-friendly ideas for you to consider this Mental Health Awareness Week:
1) Interview a senior leader about mental health and wellbeing

Storytelling is one of the most important ways to normalise conversations about mental health. And if you can involve your senior leaders in the storytelling process, it sends a powerful message that mental health impacts all of us, and that your workplace is a safe space for mental health conversations.

Conduct an interview with a senior leader on their own mental health journey, how they overcame any challenges, and what they see as their role in leading mental health in the workplace. That can then lead to a broader conversation about mental health in your workplace, the barriers, and where and how to seek support.

This is often a great starting point for follow-up conversations with other leaders and staff on their role in supporting mental health.

2) Give! Organise a community volunteering event together

We know that volunteering is important for our wellbeing – it’s one of the pillars of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing.  Carrying out kind acts increase our happiness and overall sense of wellbeing. So why not take advantage of this and volunteer on a community project this Mental Health Awareness Week?

Organise a community event with volunteers from your workplace. It could be planting trees, organising a local beach clean-up, or helping out at a local community centre or food bank. The benefits to this are numerous; in addition to the self-esteem and ‘warm fuzzies’ that community volunteering gives, many volunteering activities are great ways of increasing social wellbeing and connection within your team or organisation. Many volunteering activities (such as beach clean ups) also double as great ways to get outside and get some physical activity in as well!

3)  Get people to take photos of what they do for their own wellbeing

Mental health is an entirely subjective thing. What’s drives our stress – and our wellbeing – is different to each of us. It’s influenced by our demographic, psychographic, lived experience, gender, interests and more. A great way to explore this concept is to invite your team to take a photo of what they do for their own mental health.

  • Is it a gym selfie?
  • Walking the dog?
  • Cooking with family?
  • Curled up with a book?
  • Hiking in the wilderness?

It’s a great conversation starter – it helps people understand that wellbeing means something different to each of us – and it might spark some inspiration for people to try something new! You like to start a photo wall in your workplace that captures all of the ideas.

4) Get active together! Organise a group physical activity and pair it with a talk on the mental health benefits of activity

 Being physically active is proven to boost our wellbeing and decrease stress, depression and anxiety. Being active is another one of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing (which forms the official theme of the 2023 Mental Health Awareness Week). Exercise releases dopamine and serotonin, which is shown to improve mood and mental health. But exercise can also potentially improve memory and cognition, and even be helpful for those who live with anxiety and panic attacks.

Explore ways in which you can bring an organised physical activity in to your workplace. It could be as simple as finding out the most popular sport among your colleagues and then organise a lunchtime match or tournament for staff.

Don’t forget, what ‘being active’ looks like can vary greatly and be dependent on our age, fitness, or physical ability. It’s just about lunchtime boot camp classes or high-intensity training. If you can a diverse group of people in your workplace, ensure you have options for a wide variety of people.

Additional tips

Two other points to consider with any Mental Health Awareness Week initiative:

1) Normalising mental health conversations and telling people that it’s OK to ask for help is an excellent first step. But the journey doesn’t stop there. If you’re encouraging people to open up about their own mental health journey and seek help when they need it, it’s critical that you have robust supports in place for those that need help (be it an EAP, peer support network, counselling service or something else). If you don’t have those support structures in place, you could inadvertently end up doing more harm than good.

2) Don’t think of Mental Health Awareness Week in isolation. It’s a great way to raise awareness and start a conversation, but that conversation shouldn’t stop at the end of the week. Build on the good work you’ve done during the week to build a longer term understanding of mental health on the workplace. Look at the causes of mental ill-health in the workplace (drivers of stress, workload, culture). Use the week as a jumping-off point to truly create change.

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