FREEMASONS are doing their bit for the upcoming Mental Health Awareness Week, raising more than £1.9m to donate to charities supporting mental health.

Freemasons have so far made over 100 donations, helping more than 1.4 million people experiencing mental health issues.

To help communities achieve a better state of mental health, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the governing body for Freemasonry in England and Wales, and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, are supporting various institutions, schools and universities.

According to the NHS’s Young Minds Survey 2020, one in six young people has a probable mental disorder, while 83% of young people said the pandemic had made their mental health worse.

Among the institutions receiving support is Young Minds. Freemasons are donating £260,000 to help the charity support more than 1.4 million young people. The goal is to increase Young Minds’ reach by 10% and help many more young people find the support they need when they need it, and be able to take practical, actionable steps to improve their mental health.

The donation will enable the charity to proactively recruit more young Black and disabled people, to diversify Young Minds’ pool of bloggers and expand the experiences and voices on the website. The idea is to create more content on racism and mental health, as well as for those living with bipolar disorder.

Freemasons have also donated more than £250,000 to Mind. The donation funds the costs of an established peer-mentoring scheme in 18 schools, providing recruitment, training and support to mentors and young people with mental health concerns, through one-to-one talking and listening sessions. The donation also supports the production of two annual conferences on children and young people’s mental health.

In 2020, Suffolk Mind trained members of the Suffolk Freemasons on understanding how awareness of emotional needs can lead to better mental wellbeing for ourselves, recognising signs of poor mental health in others, and how to assist by signposting to relevant support. The Freemasons also donated £1,000 to Suffolk Mind.

Elsewhere, in Hertfordshire, a group of Freemasons walked in memory of member Charles Wandrag, who took his life due to mental health issues. The aim of the event was to raise both money and awareness for the charity Mind, with the final total raised being more than £2,000. In West Kent, Freemasons are supporting Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource with almost £ 2,000. The charity provides safe spaces and person-centred mental health support to help people improve their wellbeing. Last year they supported almost 1,000 people with mental wellbeing.

In addition, Northumberland Freemasons have donated £5,000 to Cleaswell Hill School in the local village of Guide Post. The community special school caters for children aged four to 19 with complex learning difficulties and disabilities. Some of them have additional physical, mental and emotional needs. The school is fundraising with the aim to purchase a 17-seater minibus with a wheelchair tail lift, through the Variety Sunshine Coach scheme.

The Northumberland Freemasons have also helped LD: NorthEast, with a donation of £3,000. The charity supports people across North Tyneside who have lived experience of learning disabilities, learning difficulties and autism. Its work is all about bringing people together and they believe that everyone deserves to have fun, spend time with friends and feel good about themselves. The charity’s mission is to support people to do that, from birth right through to older life, and its vision is to achieve equality and social inclusion so people can live their life their way.

In a separate project, Leicestershire & Rutland Freemasons helped Melton Men Cap with a donation of £700 to enable the charity to continue providing support. They also donated £2,000 to Loughborough Wellbeing Centre, which works tirelessly to support people living with enduring mental health issues and has expanded its activities to ensure people stayed safe and well during the Covid-19 crisis.

In Jersey meanwhile, Freemasons are donating £3,000 to Dementia Jersey. The funds will pay for a “recharger day” for those who care for others with dementia.

Commenting on the nationwide initiatives, Ian Chandler, Chair of the Communications Working Party, said: “Mental health is an important topic to our members and us. One of the most important things for Freemasons is to support people in their communities, preventing mental health problems and supporting many families.

“During Mental Health Awareness Week on 9-15 May, we should stop, look around us and make sure that we are fine and feel good. Mental health is vital and we should all always prioritise it, no matter what.”

Les Hutchinson, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, said: “I’m very pleased Freemasons have been able to make such large donations to these very important mental health charities. We’ve come a long way in recent years to having a better understanding of the issues surrounding poor mental health, but it’s still a huge problem for those affected and their families. These grants are a way for Freemasons to help provide the support and understanding that people living with these conditions so desperately need.”