Mental Health awareness week: A spotlight on mental health projects around the UK

The pandemic has left a cloud of anxiety hanging over our communities. For Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to share the work done by some of the local organisations

According to the Office of National Statistics, following the first UK national lockdown in March 2020, there was a huge rise in mental ill health and by June 2020, 1 in 5 adults were reportedly suffering from mental ill health – double that of the previous year. April to December saw a 20% increase in emergency care referrals for children and young people, compared with 2019.

We asked our network of community foundations, based all around the UK, how charities they’ve funded have been helping people during this challenging time, and we were stunned by the vast range of support being given by so many organisations!

For this year’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, we would like to shine the biggest, brightest beam of light on the incredibly vital services these organisations provide.

Supporting women and girls

For women and girls suffering from mental ill health, it has been crucial to keep connections and conversations going.

Keeping women and girls connected at 4 Wings

4 Wings is a safe space for marginalised and vulnerable women from diverse backgrounds. They received a grant, distributed by the Community Foundation for Merseyside, to provide online fitness sessions and provisions, keeping women and girls connected.

Saffron Sheffield used funding from South Yorkshire Community Foundation to help towards the cost of a new part-time specialist therapist for young women and girls aged 16 – 26, supporting their mental health.

Two women sitting talking with one looking at the camera
(The service) has made me comfortable and helped me to better understand my emotions and how to cope with them.

Participant at Saffron Sheffield

Making all communities a priority

It has been vital for charities to keep underrepresented members of the community connected and supported, and to be accessible when they’re most needed.

Children Ahead received funding from East End Community Foundation to help their mental health support for Charedi Orthodox Jewish children and parents. They set up a helpline to provide therapy sessions for children, and sent out activities and resources to families.

East End Community Foundation also funded the Bangladeshi Mental Health Forum, which organised mental health and wellbeing workshops, training sessions and an information service for the mainly Muslim community.

Pembrokeshire People First, working with people who have learning difficulties and/or autism, used funding distributed by Community Foundation Wales to further expand their online workshops, group sessions, online cookery lessons, and 1:1 meetings.

Q Space, a voluntary LGBTQ+ youth support group, works with 13–18-year-olds on a weekly basis. Throughout the pandemic, they have hosted online sessions and sent out a series of wellbeing packs, with funding from Northamptonshire Community Foundation.

Emerge Advocacy, received funding from the Community Foundation for Surrey. They provide comfort, reassurance and a lifeline for distressed young people coming through hospital doors that are often resorting to self-harm, or considering suicide as a result.

A creative approach to improving wellbeing

Lots of local charities have provided mental health support in other ways, by using activities and teaching skills to improve people’s wellbeing throughout the pandemic.

A grant from Oxfordshire Community Foundation enabled Oxford City Farm to open up more community farming volunteer sessions and provide Mental Health First Aid training, and will also fund outreach services to underrepresented ethnic minority communities.

Arts Together  have been running sessions across Wiltshire to provide friendship and arts and crafts tuition for people, most of whom are in their 80s and 90 and live alone. They bought laptops for members with their grant from Wiltshire Community Foundation.

A lot of our members come to us through the mental health teams, and they are the ones who are really suffering. We have set up telephone networks and pen pals.

Karolyne Fudge-Malik, Manager at Arts Together

A lifeline for men

In 2019, Samaritans reported that the highest suicide rate in the UK was among men aged 45-49 years old. Charities have been busy reaching out to those suffering remotely.

3 men building planters

With support from Leeds Community FoundationCloth Cat were able to provide their ‘Man About Town’ project, a multimedia project aimed at reducing social isolation, initiating friendships and reigniting a spark for music and digital arts.

Woodwork sessions at the Octopus Foundation

With funding from Kent Community Foundation, the Octopus Foundation has provided courses in healthy cooking, woodwork and employability workshops for older men, mostly ex-service personnel, who are isolated and suffering from illnesses such as depression and anxiety

Man Health launched a Chat and Connect service with its fund from County Durham Community Foundation. The service runs 7 nights a week, from 6pm to 10pm, and men can refer themselves or be referred by other services.

Man siting on bench playing a small guitar
It’s a life-saving service. If these guys weren’t in regular contact I dread to think what would happen to them.

Paul Bannister from Man Health

Increased demand during COVID

Charities have stepped up to help key workers and people directly affected by Covid-19, and have gone above and beyond to ensure support is out there.

Foundation Scotland funded SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) to deliver virtual mental health support for frontline workers. A further grant this year enabled SAMH to deliver training sessions specifically designed for workers and volunteers in the third sector.

We need to ensure these individuals feel equipped, trained and able to cope with the increasing pressures they face

Helen Wray, Programmes Manager at Foundation Scotland

Unmasked Mental Health received funding from One Community to deliver a mental health programme for people in Kirklees as an essential lifeline for participants.

The number of people asking for our support has trebled

Hear Us is a London charity acting as the voice for people with severe and enduring mental health illnesses. They used their grant from London Community Foundation to offer call support, make referrals to foodbanks and assist with applications to benefit schemes.

Dorchester Trust for Counselling & Psychotherapy used funding from Dorset Community Foundation to provide low-cost counselling for people struggling with the impact of Covid-19. This included people in abusive relationships and frontline workers.

No one, throughout my whole life, has helped me as much as my counsellor at DTCP has.

Patient of Dorchester Trust for Counselling & Physiotherapy

A grant from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Community Foundation enabled Havant & East Hampshire MIND to establish a crisis fund to provide household items for vulnerable and at-risk families to help them survive the impact of lockdown, reducing the risk of harm and abuse within families.

Being there in the darkest moments

Covid-19 has meant that many loved ones have been kept apart during treatments for serious illnesses and in many cases, during the final moments of life. In the darkest moments, charities have done all they can to aid those in need.

Pete’s Dragons support people bereaved by suicide, with funding from Devon Community Foundation. The pandemic has deeply impacted the grieving journey of those they work with, and they’re doing all they can to manage the additional mental strain on their clients.

Our beneficiaries, in conjunction with their grief, trauma, distress, and isolation are now also scared, increasingly vulnerable, lonely and have gone backwards in their grief journey.

Spokesperson at Pete’s Dragons

Shine A Light Support Service received a grant from Heart of England for their ‘Shiny Hampers of Support’ project, which provided online activities and counselling sessions for families affected by cancer during the pandemic.

An excited patient receives a parcel from Sabastian’s Action Trust

Sebastian’s Action Trust was set up in the memory of Sebastian Gates, who passed away at the age of nine. With funding from Heart of Bucks, the Trust purchased, packed and delivered emergency food supplies and activity packs to families of seriously ill children.

With funding from Milton Keynes Community Foundation, the Lewis Foundation were able to create a self-isolation pack for people receiving serious hospital treatment. This has not only been useful to patients, but has also helped to alleviate the stress of their loved ones.


Despite the barriers they have faced, and the staff burn-out emerging in the charity sector, local charities and organisations have remained driven, committed and creative in how they have supported people with mental health crises in communities far and wide.

By providing sustainable funding and long-term support, our community foundations will continue to work with local partners to maintain and develop these necessary services and help communities to reconnect, recover and rebuild.

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