29 Sep 2008 Comments

Our first social start-up, Mindapples, asks “what’s the 5-a-day for your mind?” and encourages everyone to take care of their minds the way we take care of our bodies.

Mindapples started as a social project in 2008 to encourage everyone to take better care of their minds. Taking as its starting point the concept of a “5-a-day for your mind”, the first goal of the project was to crowdsource an answer to this question. We created a simple WordPress blog site and a Surveymonkey page and began asking as many people as possible what five things they did to look after their minds. The first site explained the project as follows:

Mindapples is a social movement to promote individual self-management of mental wellbeing. The original “5-a-day” campaign encouraged people to take care of their physical health through simple daily activities, and we want to do the same thing for mental health. We aim to create a stigma-free public debate about mental wellbeing, simply by asking everybody the question: “What’s your five-a-day?”

Mental health is one of the most socially important and underfunded issues in our society today, and directly or indirectly affects the majority of the population. Yet while the physical health debate is focusing increasingly on prevention and individual wellbeing for all, mental health continues to languish in the public imagination as something just for “ill” people – with all the judgements and isolation that this creates. But we all have mental health – we just don’t usually notice it until it wrong.

So if you can care for your body by playing football, or eating an apple, then what’s the equivalent for your mind? And can mental health care be not just curative or preventative, but recreational too?

Rather than offering expert advice, we’re asking everyone to think about their personal five-a-day, and using the power of the web to draw together a community of knowledge about what works for ordinary people. By supporting individuals to take care of their day-to-day mental health through simple activities, we can give people a sense of power over their minds. And by asking a question which everyone can answer, we hope to open up a mainstream public debate about mental health in which everyone can participate, and turn mental wellbeing into something aspirational and enjoyable for all.

And it could be fun too.

Over time the project evolved organically, first into a series of pop-up events and then into a fully-fledged social enterprise. With sponsorship from Couvoisier and a small grant from UntLtd and the Nominet Trust in 2010, we built a proper website and supplemented our online campaign with offline installations, building a large wooden tree sculpture and taking it to music festivals, communities and universities to promote mental wellbeing.

Shortly after this we secured a slightly larger grant from Guys and St Thomas’s Charity and the Maudsley Charity to pilot our tree installations in GP surgeries in Lambeth (although two years later we were still trying to get approval for the project from an NHS Research Ethics Committee). We also received two Cabinet Office Innovation prizes for our inventive approach to public health.

In February 2012 Mindapples announced £120,000 of funding from the Maudsley Charity to scale up the project, turning our engagement tools into toolkits that small organisations could buy, and developing a corporate training programme to teach people how their minds work to increase their resilience and mental performance.

Mindapples is an idea that is gaining ground at a time when both professionals and politicians are focusing on people’s well-being.

I compile my own five-a-day… and I realise that while doing them may not make that bubbling undercurrent of anxiety disappear, it does subside. I feel less useless, more capable.

I find Mindapples a pretty intriguing concept, which could really catch on. Just as gyms became a big thing in the 80s, will the 2010s see the arrival of serious preventative mental health?

The Mindapples organisation continues to grow and has now worked with a range of multinational companies including PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Pepsico, Roche Products, Centrica and JP Morgan. We are also working with prestigious healthcare research body Kings Health Partners to pilot our training services in primary healthcare.

Follow @mindapples

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