Christmas campaign: How joining a choir can improve your mental and physical health

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Tucked away in a corner of the capital, the Mind and Soul Community Choir works to improve the mental health and wellbeing of its members. The idea started at Maudsley Hospital in south London in 2006 as a way of promoting mental wellness and reducing the stigma around related illness.

Today it is independent of the NHS ‑ run by volunteers, made up of mental health service users, carers, friends and family, staff from social care services and members of the community.

Singing is free and participants do not need to read music, or audition. The choir’s chairwoman Penny Fuller is proud of the difference it has made to people’s lives.

She said: “Mental health is not a new concern but the pandemic has made it worse, and some people have felt this concern for the first time.

“Our members say singing is something to look forward to, that it relieves stress, improves mood, memory, and physical health.

“But the pandemic has made it a struggle to stay connected and to keep on singing when we could not even sing in the park.”

The initiative is highlighted as the Daily Express and mental health charity Mind join forces to put the topic front and centre of the national conversation.

Last year Mind faced its highest level of demand since it was founded in 1946, after being approached by 20 million people – about a third of the UK population.

And each month the charity’s Infoline receives 8,000 calls, equal to 258 a day, or 11 every hour.

Three in five people said their mental health had worsened during lockdown but one third had not sought help.

And Mind says millions more are “living on borrowed time” as the fallout from Covid continues.

Penny said: “It is great news to us that the Daily Express has taken fundraising for the major charity Mind as its Christmas campaign.

“We are a mutual support group, one of the many social activities which can improve mental health and well being.

“Mind helps many mutual support groups. If you are feeling down, you can phone Mind, or look for a local community group and just step in ‑ taking that first step is the most difficult but essential step to improve your wellbeing.

“Christmas can be a time of joy, or a time when stress and loneliness are overwhelming. We can make next year better when we put our hands in our pockets ‑ or use our credit cards online ‑ and give a donation to Mind, so it can offer help and support to more people.”

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