Cultivating hope: Looking after mental health in the cost-of-living crisis

At first glance, Belfast Walk in Knowle West is just an ordinary Bristol cul-de-sac. But take a closer look and tucked between the houses you’ll discover a secret garden.  

Until recently, Knowle West Community Garden was an overgrown wilderness. But that all changed when Filwood Residents Association took over the site.  

Under the care of volunteer site manager Simon, the land has been transformed into a tranquil green space for the local community. A space people can go for their mental wellbeing and come together to support each other.  

A garden of hope

For Simon, the garden has been vital in his ongoing mental health recovery. “This garden has kept me from any thoughts of self-harming or anything. It really kept me going,” he told us when we visited him in August. 

He was struggling with suicidal thoughts when he first came to Second Step’s Hope Project, our mental health project for men aged 30-64 in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.  

Men in this age bracket are the highest risk group for suicide in England and Wales, and in Bristol, suicide rates are slightly higher than the national average. Hope aims to reduce suicide in this high-risk group. 

Just one year later, Simon helps to run Knowle West Community Garden and has completed training so he can run groups at the garden to help others going through mental health struggles.  

Mental health and the cost-of-living crisis

The Hope Project takes a unique approach to mental health support. As well as providing emotional support, we help men manage the practical issues behind their mental health issues, such as debt and unemployment. 

Financial insecurity is one of the biggest problems facing men when they come to the Hope Project. With the cost-of-living crisis putting extra pressure on finances, many are also feeling extra pressure on their mental health. 

True to its name, Hope proves that there’s always a way forward. In a recent study, men supported by Hope reported that their depression and suicidal thoughts decreased by 50% in just six months. 26% also said that they felt more in control of their finances.  

Hope’s success reflects the values we live by at Second Step: when we take the time to understand how people’s life circumstances affect them, and the adversity they’ve been through, we can help them find a way forwards with hope and courage. 

Where to find mental health support in the cost-of-living crisis

As uncertainty of the rising costs of living continues, it’s more important than ever that community mental health support is easy to find and available whenever people need it.  

We offer a range of community wellbeing services that people in Bristol can turn to for support, including: 

Bristol Wellbeing College  

Bristol Wellbeing College offers free online and in-person workshops to help people find new ways to look after their mental wellbeing.  

We’re open to all adults in Bristol, no referral required. You can apply to join our friendly community of learners directly on our website. 

Help When You Need It  

Help When You Need It provides flexible support to people facing challenges in Bristol whenever and wherever they need it, including help to maximise income, reduce debt and find work. 

Other places to find support 

Cultivating hope together

Simon often visits his community garden on Belfast Walk in the early hours of the morning, finding it a calming place to sit while the rest of the world sleeps. It’s small acts of self-care like this that keep him going, even though things are still hard.  

When it feels like the world is going at a million miles an hour, it’s important to give ourselves these moments, whether that’s an hour to have a cuppa with the tv off, plant some bulbs for next Spring, or take a walk. 

Because when we take care of ourselves, we can take care of each other, and cultivate our garden of hope together. 

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