Above: Young Rainbow Minds practitioner Bex Large, Chief Executive of Mind Paul Farmer, Rebecca Birkbeck Co-op Director of Community and Shared Value and Chief Executive of Co-op Steve Murrells.

By Steve Murrells, CEO

Supporting mental wellbeing is an integral part of our vision of Co-operating for a Fairer World. Our latest research looking at the impact of the pandemic on young people, the Ghosted Generation, found that too many young people see mental wellbeing as one of the toughest challenges facing them now and in the future. 

We’ve long suspected this is the case and at Co-op we’ve seen the value in supporting community mental wellbeing, which is why we’ve been working with our charity partners Mind, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and Inspire over the last few years.

Last Friday, I visited Young Rainbow Minds with Rebecca Birkbeck, our Director of Community and Shared Value, and was delighted to see how the money raised by colleagues, members and customers is having a direct impact in supporting mental wellbeing in our local communities. 

Young Rainbow Minds 

Young Rainbow Minds, which is a collaboration between Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest and Mind in Salford, supports the mental wellbeing of young people, aged 17-24, in East London and Greater Manchester’s LGBTQI+ communities. 

Support for mental wellbeing is needed now more than ever. 1 in 4 of us experience a mental health problem in any given year and the pandemic is having a huge impact. Earlier this year, Mind’s research found that 70% of LGBTQI+ people said the pandemic had made their mental health worse. 

Young Rainbow Minds uses a new approach called Radical Self Care, which includes teaching techniques such as setting boundaries and mindfulness to address some of the unique mental wellbeing experiences of young people in the LGBTQI+ community. Young Rainbow Minds also hosts a regular online drop-in group called the Rainbow Room. The group is a safe space for young people to work through common challenges and build a community. 

From my visit, it was really clear to see how impactful Young Rainbow Minds has been for young people. Those involved in the service spoke movingly about their experiences and the importance of being heard and ‘seen’ as part of receiving this support.  

It was empowering to hear how much of a difference the service had made by providing a community, a safe place to forge positive relationships, a place for young people to freely express themselves and work through personal challenges they’re facing. I came away certain that this approach was making a real impact on individuals in the way that our colleagues and our members would want us to do.

Thanks to the money raised we’re delighted to be able to fund Young Rainbow Mind’s to expand for a further year to work with Rainbow Noir. Rainbow Noir are a community action group to support LGBTQI+ people of colour and provide training for young people to develop the skills they need to become future leaders in their communities. 

Thank you

Our ability to help support the mental wellbeing of communities is made possible by the amazing fundraising efforts of our colleagues. Thanks to you all, a staggering £6m has been raised so far. It’s clear supporting mental wellbeing is important to you and you have gone above and beyond. 

Over the next year, we’ll be holding more fundraising weeks to help reach our target of £8m for Mind, SAMH and Inspire. Thanks to you we’ve supported 3,000 people so far through our existing services, and with over 50 new services being set up across the UK we expect to be able to support a minimum of 10,000 people. 

World Mental Health Day

This Sunday (Oct 10) is World Mental Health Day and ahead of the day, I wanted to stress how important looking after our own mental wellbeing is. 

There’s so much support available for colleagues; from counselling with our provider Lifeworks available 24/7, to GP services via our partner Smart Health for you and your family, to Gympass our physical health and wellbeing platform. To find out more about the resources available to you, click  here.

Even a small improvement to your wellbeing can help you better manage your mental health. Download our ‘Be kind to your mind’ guide for ways to support your own and others mental wellbeing at coop.co.uk/charitypartnership.

We know that helping and supporting others can have a positive impact on your own wellbeing. You can also find things to do and groups in your area to support your wellbeing at  coop.co.uk/co-operate.