Taking a community learning course could help improve your mental health, according to new research published by the Department for Education today - on World Mental Health Day (10 October).

The research project, launched in 2016, followed 52 adult learning providers delivering short, part-time adult community learning courses. These included courses focused on managing symptoms of mental health problems or topics such as yoga, digital skills, and painting.

Around four in ten learners taking part had significant improvements in their symptoms of anxiety, and three in ten for their symptoms of depression.

Learners reported that the courses helped them in positive ways, including raising their confidence.

  • Adult community learning could help people with depression and anxiety
  • Findings could help thousands of people improve their mental health
  • Community learning is delivered in nearly every local authority in England

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said:

“We have long known that community learning courses can have a positive impact on people’s lives. These courses are helping over half a million people to gain skills and improve their self-esteem. The courses can change people’s lives and the lives of the families around them.

“On World Mental Health Day find out how you can make a difference to your life and make a positive change to your future.”

Sam Burgess, Head of Service at Kingston Adult Education, said:

"The Community Learning and Mental Health project has been life changing for the volunteers who participated and for all staff who have been involved.  The 6 week course followed by refreshers to maintain positive mental health practices have generated an inspirational network of people who continue to support each other.  These courses have been so successful, Kingston Adult Education are continuing to offer them with Public Health part funding a number of future courses."

Chris Truckle, Tutor – Health and Wellbeing/Employability at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, said:

“The Department for Education funded Community Learning Mental Health Research provided by Positive Minds, as part of  Blackburn with Darwen Adult Learning Service, with a valuable opportunity to develop and deliver evidence based learning to help improve wellbeing amongst our residents who were experiencing challenges with common mental health conditions such as anxiety and/or depression. This has had a significant positive impact on the many individuals who have progressed into work, volunteering, further learning or establish peer led groups to provide ongoing support to each other as a result of the courses.  Since the conclusion of the research we have taken the opportunity to embed the work into our mainstream curriculum offer, recognising its vital importance in meeting local priorities for mental health and wellbeing in our communities and neighbourhoods.”

The community learning courses included in the research project, such as ‘singing to de-stress’, focused on supporting people to manage their mental health symptoms and included 1:1 guidance sessions for each learner.

Community learning is delivered in nearly every local authority area across England through adult education services, and also by FE colleges, Institutes of Adult Learning, and voluntary sector organisations.

Through the National Retraining Scheme, to which the Chancellor recently pledged £100 million to roll out the initial elements of the Scheme, the Government aims to help more adults to up-skill and re-skill. As well as this, the Flexible Learning Fund is supporting 31 innovative projects across England to give people the opportunity to get the skills they need to kick-start their working life.

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