Community Mental Health in 2022


For World Mental Health Day CEO Matt King discussed the current climate, it’s adverse effects on wellbeing, and how Trust Links aim to provide accessible and vital mental health support to communities in Essex.

Trust Links was established in Southend in 2000 and we became a charity 20 years ago. In that time, we have seen a massive increase in the numbers of people accessing mental health support through Trust Links. Last year was a record, with more than 4,000 people accessing our services. The COVID pandemic, cost of living crisis, and our increasingly disconnected and fractured society have contributed to record levels of mental health challenges in society.

Along with the mental health crisis that the country is facing, the climate and ecological emergency is gathering pace, with increase in global temperatures and a reduction in biodiversity. We are continually developing habitats for wildlife at our Growing Together sites and engaging the public in energy saving and environmental action through our Eco Days project. We are really excited to be running another Green Essex Weekend at Othona at the end of April next year.

At Trust Links we aim to respond to needs in a person-centred and holistic way. Through our workshops and courses, therapeutic gardening, positive activities, creative groups, and peer support, we aim to improve mental health and wellbeing. The Trust Links sites are non-stigmatising and inclusive, a green hub for the whole community whatever your level of need, your age, or what you are looking to progress on to do.

Luke started at Trust Links 9 years ago as a young man with Asperger’s and anxiety, having not left his house for a couple of years. He agreed to ‘have a go’ at gardening, although had no interest. On attending Growing Together, he quickly grew in confidence and developed a passion for horticulture. He successfully completed the Diploma in Horticulture training that we provided and progressed on to a more advanced qualification at Writtle College. He gained a paid Apprenticeship at RHS Hyde Hall and became a horticulture teacher through Southend Adult Community College. He now works for Trust Links part-time, combined with gardening rounds and other work. Engagement with Trust Links has transformed his life – his mum says that it has saved his life.

Referrals are higher than ever, with a 250% increase to the REACH Wellbeing Hub over the last year, which has unfortunately resulted in a 4 month waiting list stacking up. Our resources are not keeping pace with the demands on our services. With one in three people suffering from a mental health problem, and suicide being the biggest killer of men of working age, it has never been more urgent that we pull together as a community to tackle mental health in a meaningful and positive way.

Trust Links offers an alternative vision. We work with nature and the environment to tend our gardens and Orchard; in turn our gardens nurture us, helping to feed us with their harvest. There is such a strong evidence base that being outdoors and working with nature improved mental health and wellbeing. By connecting people through our Talking Together befriending project, at Youth Links and Families Growing Together, through our REACH Wellbeing Hub and Recovery College, and at our Growing Together gardens, people do not need to be alone, and can find others who have similar experiences and others that they can share their problems and concerns with.

Have you thought about becoming involved with us? You could benefit from the wide range of services that we offer and projects that we run. You may have time to volunteer as a befriender, at our events, or supporting one of our projects to run.

Could you help us raise vital funds by running a fundraiser, encouraging your company to support us, or by donating directly?

Thank you for supporting our work, helping us to grow communities and transform lives.