Continuing from their Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) have released findings from another survey, this time focusing on over 2000 teenagers aged 13-19. The results point to a desperate need for more green, natural spaces for the nation’s teenagers.
The new research by MHF has found that 78% of British teenagers live in urban areas. These findings emphasise the importance of better maintained, existing urban green spaces as well as the creation of more.
Half of the teenagers surveyed in the MHF research said that time spent in nature makes them feel better and 52% said it improved their mood.
The teenagers who took part in the survey were also asked what would help them benefit from nature more, particularly if they lived in built up, urban areas.
The research found that teenagers were most likely to ask for improvements to their existing local environments such as “better quality public natural spaces”, which was chosen by 32%, another 31% said more “trees and plants grown around my streets” would have a positive impact on their mental health.
Another important point picked up by MHF was that teenagers wanted those local open spaces to feel safer. 12% of all teens surveyed said that “feeling able to spend time in nature without fear of discrimination” would help them to benefit from nature more.
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Just under half of the teenagers surveyed also reported wanting access to parks or natural spaces that were closer to them, alluding to the fact that many teenagers live in areas within cities where green spaces are not local.
Lucy Thorpe, Head of Policy at MHF said “The vast majority of teenagers in the UK now live in urban areas. This means that local councils in those areas can help protect the mental health of millions of young people. One of the ways we’re asking them to do this is to prioritise people’s access to nature in the streets and places where they live, study and work…For instance, they should require new developments to include trees, plants and public open spaces where people can actually sit and experience nature – and ensure those places are clean, safe and make everyone feel welcome. We also want them to use Universal Design principles to make parks and other green spaces accessible to everyone.”
These findings for Mental Health Awareness Week by MHF suggest a sad fact: young people, who’s mental wellbeing and health would greatly benefit from more time in green, natural spaces, aren’t getting anywhere near what they need or would like.
This seems to be down to a number of reasons that all need addressing, but the most pertinent for British teens are the safety concerns when out in open, public spaces such as parks and accessibility, this could mean increasing the volume of parks in urban places, but could also link back to this desire to feel safe and welcomed.
The Mental Health Foundation hopes that this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme of nature has highlighted just how important it is to address these points for improvement.