Pilot Activities by Astronomy for Mental Health Project

OAD’s Astronomy for Mental Health project aims to explore how the inspirational and cultural aspects of astronomy can help improve mental well-being of vulnerable groups, working in collaboration with astronomers, psychologists, mental health professionals, social workers and other specialists. The project looks at the importance of mental health for development and the inspirational potential of astronomy, as well as explores the relevance and impact of astronomy on mental health for different groups, focusing its initial efforts in Armenia, Spain and South Africa. 

Recently, the project team members organized activities in Armenia and Spain

Activities in Armenia:

In Armenia, the project focuses on evaluating the impact of astronomy on children and their mental well-being. Activities have been carried out in the children support center together with a psychologist that showed remarkable signs of changes in the behavior and mood of children after just four visits. Assessments are underway to measure this change. The next phase of activities will be organized for displaced children, as well as expand to more support centers and groups.

Activities in Spain:

The OAD team has been collaborating with the “Fundación Alicia y Guillermo”, a local association for elderly people in Madrid, Spain, to promote astronomy talks tailored specifically for them. The series of talks had a twofold goal:

1- To provide access to a different type of activity for this target group

2- To assess if astronomy can contribute to the mental well-being of this group

The pilot activities, organized in June 2022, had a hybrid format with some participants physically attending the talks at the Foundation’s premises, others connecting from home and others connecting from elderly centers in Madrid and North Spain regions. In total, around 23 people participated in each activity, making a total of about 90 people in 4 talks. Four talks were delivered on the topics: “A Voyage through the Cosmos”, “Exploring the Solar System with ESA missions”, “Impacts and how to avoid them” and “The Red Planet”.

The presence and encouragement of the Foundation’s staff during the whole time provided a relaxed atmosphere in which the participants felt motivated and engaged. Indeed, many questions were formulated during and after the talks from both the face-to-face and online audience. Two types of questionnaires were applied for this series of talks. A PANAS psychological survey before the first talk and after the last one for a reduced number of participants; and a general motivation/interest test for all participants was applied after the last talk. The average age of the participants was 78 years old and the answers, still under analysis, show a high degree of satisfaction with the activity and that it has greatly contributed to enhancing the participant’s self-esteem and rise of positive emotions.   

This pilot program will be continued and expanded after summer, with the collaboration of the astronomical community in Spain and under the framework of the Spanish Astronomical Society. 

Do you find this project interesting? We invite you to collaborate with us to co-design and implement activities. Send an email to mentalhealth@astro4dev.org.