This Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re celebrating all the ways parks and recreation promotes mental health and well-being. Whether it’s playing in a local park, exploring a nature trail, connecting with neighbors at a community center, or enriching your mind, body, or spirit through a recreation program, parks and recreation has a positive impact on people’s mental, social, and physical health and well-being.

How do parks impact mental health?

  • Time spent in nature positively impacts mental health by increasing cognitive performance and well-being and alleviating illnesses such as depression, attention deficit disorders, and Alzheimer's.
  • Individuals reported less mental distress and greater life satisfaction when they were living in greener areas.
  • Physician-diagnosed depression was 33 percent higher in the residential areas with the fewest green spaces, compared to the neighborhoods with the most.
  • People who had access to neighborhood parks during the COVID-19 pandemic were much less likely to report symptoms of depression or to screen positive for anxiety than those without.
  • 92% of U.S. adults experience a positive mental health boost after spending time at their local parks.
  • Parks build a culture of connection across communities. Parks attract community members, create opportunities for social and intergenerational interactions, and help develop social and cultural ties.
  • Access to parks is correlated with greater physical activity, which improves mental health and mood and lowers healthcare costs.
  • 93% of U.S. adults say that activities offered by park and recreation agencies are beneficial to their mental health. The top activities include socializing with family and friends, spending time in nature and greenspace, and exercising. 

Five Mental Health Benefits of Parks and RecreationYou can share all the ways parks and recreation supports mental health by downloading our infographic and sharing it with your friends, neighbors, and elected officials. Let them know that an investment in parks and recreation is an investment in your community’s well-being!

Let us know how you are amplifying Mental Health Awareness Month. Submit your stories and photos here, and tag NRPA in your social media posts using the hashtag #MentalHealthinParks.

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How can you celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month?

If you’re a park and recreation professional, there are many opportunities to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. 

  • Use your communications channels to share facts about mental health and promote the mental health benefits of parks, green space and nature. Use facts from reliable sources like Mental Health America or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and use their Mental Health Awareness Month promotional toolkits.
  • Offer special programs and events.
    • Organize a community run, walk or pop-up art or music event focused on mental health.
    • Host a mental health screening, training, forum, or other educational event. Include local service providers and wellness organizations, highlight community resources, or sponsor prevention activities to build awareness of mental health across the community.
    • Offer programs that promote mindfulness and social connection like outdoor Yoga or Tai Chi, nature walks and forest bathing, volunteerism and community service opportunities, journaling, gardening, painting or other visual arts opportunities, or guided meditation.
  • Provide training to staff, partners and community members.
    • Encourage staff and community members to obtain a certification in Mental Health First Aid or Youth Mental Health First Aid, a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues. Offer a course at your facility!
    • Use NRPA’s Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Language Guide to assess written and verbal communications across your agency, helping staff and community members to use non-stigmatizing language.
  • Assess your facilities to better promote mental health. Explore strategies to limit noise and sensory overload, integrate plants, greenery, and soft light into indoor spaces, use warm and soothing colors on signage and graphics, create spaces for intergenerational connections, and maintain an organized and clean environment.
  • Join a local community coalition focused on expanding mental health awareness. Leverage your organization’s networks and resources to help advance community-wide practices, policies, norms and other approaches.
  • Focus on staff well-being. Assess how you are supporting the mental health and well-being of your staff and identify actions you can take in alignment with the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Well-Being and make a commitment to the Mental Health Excellence in the Workplace initiative.
  • Encourage your community to get moving! Physical activity of any kind is great for mental health. Use NRPA’s toolkit and promotional materials to promote Family Health and Fitness Day on June 8, 2024.
  • Light up the facilities and public spaces your agency manages in green, the official awareness color for mental health.
  • Collaborate with local and state legislators to plan an advocacy event and encourage advocates, consumers, concerned citizens, and community and business leaders to discuss your community’s mental health needs with policymakers. 

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