620 words, approx 4 mins to read.

Hundreds of members have responded and shared their thoughts on mental health and wellbeing with our community team and National Members’ Council as we continue to explore how Co-op can make an even greater difference to our communities.

The clear steer from members is that mental health and wellbeing are hugely important matters for them, and should be supported by Co-op’s future community programme.

Nearly a third of members who joined the conversation said that they were very comfortable talking about mental health, and almost three-quarters of the members went on to say that they had experienced mental health problems themselves.

Of these, over half shared that their mental health issues had affected their ability to connect with others in their community. Lack of confidence, anxiety, and depression were cited as barriers for some.

Despite the prevalence and complexity of mental health issues experienced by members, I was concerned to learn that only 1 in 5 members agreed that there was enough support for mental health in their community, with persistent underfunding, cuts and the prioritisation of spending on physical wellbeing all being identified as contributing to the inadequate provision. And where help is available, members reported that it was often only for those in crisis, long distances from home and hampered by long waiting lists.

Most members appeared to be undertaking self-help measures to manage their mental health and wellbeing, such as eating well, exercising, getting adequate sleep and spending time with family/friends. Far fewer were seeking the support of specialists or support groups, which may be a reflection of the fact that these sorts of resources are simply not always available. It was, however, great to hear that some communities are taking matters into their own hands and setting up groups and initiatives to promote wellbeing.

“In our community we set up The Friendly Bench, an outdoor social space, on people’s doorsteps, where everyone and anyone can meet, chat, rest and get to know their neighbours. As a community group we arrange monthly get togethers for everyone, afternoon teas, ‘Blokes, a brew and banter’, and intergenerational gardening project, Blossoming Friendships – all with the aim of giving people a free, inclusive, accessible space to come together and make friends.” Lyndsey, a member who posted on our new Join In Community

89% of members gave us the thumbs up to focus on these issues in our future community programme, and this conversation with members has certainly highlighted, for me, the gap between the need for and the availability of support, and the potential difference we could make. Members have made us aware of many organisations doing great things to support wellbeing in communities, so we’ll now start to look at how they might fit into our overall strategy for supporting wellbeing.

“Your lovely staff already do a lot with a chat and a smile, at least here locally. This is just a logical next step. You don’t have to do it alone, you could partner with a charity and/or local libraries (who run parent, bereavement and elderly activity groups among others) and perhaps Co-op members would like to volunteer. I would.” Lola Askarova, a member from Rochester

I’d just like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the members who joined in this important conversation  and thank all those who have already shared with us their thinking on community safety, education and skills for young people and community spaces. Work will now begin on bringing together everything we’ve learned to create an exciting and bold new programme of community activity.

If you’re a member who would like to get involved in your Co-op, head to your member account and see the opportunities that are currently available.

Mary McGuigan
National Members’ Council

Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. It might be an idea for a member of staff who is trained in Health and Wellbeing , Eatwell issues etc to visit and hold forums on these and / or similar topics in schools , clubs etc.
    Most of these venues would be able to accommodate a couple of speakers and a whiteboard .As well as the above topics, the values and ethos of fair trade could also be explained
    Each session could last for approximately 30 minutes and should include a ” Question and Answer” section
    These sessions could be extremely useful for children and pensioners in that it would educate children as to what is best for them and the older people as to how to change “bad habits” and to reassure them

  2. Music unfortunately is everywhere nowadays that’s if you could call some of it music. if nice easy listening music was played it might even help you to relax while out shopping.
    A new business has opened open over the fence where I live in the last few years and it drives me and my elderly neighbours to distraction. They run a car wash from it as well as an exercise gym and what we hear from it is Thump Thump hence the reason I say its not music. What I would like to know is, is this even legal but police, councils and politicians don’t even want to know or care about anyone’s mental health.

  3. Health and well-being.

    Maybe the Co-op could consider not having loud music played in some of its stores for at least one day of the week. I have mild autism and find I cannot remain in my local store too long due to the music, it distracts my concentration and I end up just wanting to leave.

    • Hi Gilly. Sorry to hear this. We have supported an Autism Hour for a number of years and some of our stores do them much more regularly. We’re currently investigating how we can improve our approach to this. Stay tuned. ^Ian


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