Practical Look at Combining Astronomy and Mental Health

On June 4, 2024, a pioneering workshop took place at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), marking a significant step in integrating mental health with astronomy outreach and science communication. This transformative session, organized by the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), served as a pilot for the upcoming Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) Conference 2024. 

The workshop was attended by delegates from the SALT Collateral Benefits Programme and the Cape Town Science Centre.  

The workshop, themed “Practical look at combining astronomy and mental health,” aimed to equip participants with the tools to integrate, host, or initiate astronomy-based mental health projects. The session’s goal was to explore the potential of astronomy to create environments conducive to self-exploration, resilience, and well-being. 

A Transformative Experience 

Participants were taken on a journey through the conceptual foundations of utilizing astronomy as a medium for mental health. The workshop uncovered the motivations behind this innovative approach and offered practical strategies for engagement. The session started with a guided meditation, followed by a discussion and presentation on the value of mental health and how science communication and outreach can impact it. The session concluded with an overview of available resources and an open discussion. 

Currently available resources  

This session explored the current resources available from the OAD, featuring real-world examples and providing a step-by-step guide to their implementation. The presentation aimed to inspire collective participation through a clear call to action.  

The resources available currently include: 

  • Guided meditation sessions 
  • Astronomy for Mental Health Guidelines 
  • Planetary Self-Care Workbooks 
  • Recordings of online sessions 
  • Facilitator guides 
  • Participant guides 
  • Links to our publications 

*All resources are available at

Participant Feedback 

The workshop was well-received, with participants finding it informative and thought-provoking. Many expressed that the session opened new doors and broadened their awareness of the impact their outreach can have. Some indicated they would consider including the narratives or thought-provoking questions presented during the workshop. However, feedback also revealed that while the guided meditation session was suitable for adults, it might be too long for younger audiences typically involved in their outreach efforts. 

Moving Forward 

This pilot session highlighted the potential of integrating mental health within astronomy communication and outreach. It set the stage for further discussions and development at the CAP Conference, where more astronomy educators, communicators, outreach professionals, and enthusiasts will explore how the wonders of the universe can support mental health and promote a culture of wellness and growth. 

The OAD’s innovative approach demonstrates how astronomy can transcend traditional boundaries, fostering personal growth and mental well-being alongside scientific inquiry. As we continue to explore the universe, we also uncover new ways to understand and improve our mental health, making this workshop a pivotal step toward a holistic approach to science outreach.