Celebrating the anniversary of ‘ACTivate Your Life’ free online self-help video course, by Andrea Gray, Mental Health Development Lead for Wales

When the pandemic struck last year, my main focus for many months was helping to think about what we might do to support people who could no longer access support in the community and who, like myself, were finding pretty much every day a challenge in different ways.

One of the resources that had existed before the pandemic was ‘ACTivate Your Life’; it was a walk in (no referral needed) course that I knew had helped so many people. It had been developed and designed by psychologist Dr Neil Frude, and was no longer available due to the lockdown. It had been held in church halls, libraries and sports centres which had all been closed due to the pandemic.

The previous year we had supported Action for Hearing Loss start to develop a filmed British Sign Language (BSL) version of the course.  Deaf people have such a limited number of resources tailored to their needs and their language. Knowing this was underway I contacted Neil to ask if we could use the script to create an online version of the course. He quickly helped me understand that creating videos in English and Welsh was a very different task to BSL and not one that could be simply replicated. He did however think we could do it! Neil was incredibly generous with his time and offered to rewrite the community course.  It usually ran for two hour sessions for four weeks, and Neil created something watchable, still grounded in evidence and running for much shorter time.

The next couple of months were incredibly busy, with COVID-19 safe filming and writing supplementary information. The free online course offers people the opportunity to watch the four videos whenever and wherever they wish.  

ACTivate Your Life was launched in the summer of 2020.  The message spread fast on social media with a lot of positive comments and feedback.  We contacted GPs, primary care staff and mental health services to make them aware of the resource which could be recommended to people who were unable to attend the walk in sessions.  We know that some people don’t have easy access to the internet themselves and the course can be accessed in libraries now that restrictions have been lifted.

A year on the landscape of our daily lives has started to change, and whilst there remain many and significant hurdles and challenges ahead there is perhaps some time to start to think about our own wellbeing (rather than just surviving) and this course can so powerfully help us to do that. It can help you to take some control, focus on what matters and live your life with more confidence and a greater sense of your key values.

The Public Health Wales ‘How are we doing in Wales?’ Public Engagement Survey results show us that 34% of adults say their mental health is worse now than before the pandemic, and that we are feeling less healthy and less happy than before 2020.  We are promoting the videos again this month, one year after the initial launch, with a focus on the communities who have suffered most with their mental health over the past year.

Here are some quotes from just a few people who have shared with us this year the impact the course has had on them:

“I can honestly say that ACTivate Your Life course has changed my life. I am a different person & now much more able to cope with any adversity/anything I can’t control. Thank you so much.”

“I feel that this course has made a real difference to my life.”

“Excellent course – it helped me to understand that thoughts are just thoughts.”

“I am now much calmer/react less emotionally to things & am able to cope with a multitude of things that busy life throws at us – I just do one thing at a time, prioritising in a rational way based on my values/what’s important. This makes me feel much more satisfied with life, even when there are tough times.”

“I have applied the tools that the course gave me, which means I have been able to accept what I can’t change & just focus on/prioritise what I can do to help my mum…I can’t thank you enough & would recommend this course to everyone affected by cancer, either personally or through someone they care about.”

The ‘ACTivate Your Life’ course can be accessed free here.  Please take a look at the videos to improve your own wellbeing, share with relevant professionals, or share with family and friends who might be interested.