Men Up North, a charity promoting male mental health, has launched a pioneering alternative art initiative to fund a forest for mental wellness in the Peak District.
Men Up North aims to raise £250,000 to acquire 10 acres of forest space in the National Park to host mental health retreats for men and train a team of wellbeing wardens.
Instead of relying on donations to fund the purchase, the organisation is seeking investment from alternative art buyers keen to put their cryptocurrency to good use. It has created a digital art collection called Jamur.club featuring 66 three-dimensional scans of British forest fungi, and placed them for sale on the OpenSea NFT marketplace.
Collectors can acquire ownership of Men Up North’s art on the blockchain, with prices starting at 0.6 Ethereum (around £1,500). The charity will offset any carbon emissions generated when the NFTs are minted and sold.
The forest will provide more opportunities for men living with depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges to connect with people facing similar issues and experience the therapeutic benefits of engaging in bushcraft, foraging and forest bathing.
Research shows that people who connect regularly with nature are usually happier in life and more likely to report feeling their lives are worthwhile.
Men Up North plans to create augmented reality experiences to encourage tech-savvy individuals to engage with nature. It also believes the forest could provide a safe, non-clinical setting for people to use new psychedelic therapies once approved for use by UK regulators.
“There is an epidemic of male suicide in this country, but society tells people who are struggling to man up. Men are conditioned not to cry, not to show weakness, not to identify or share feelings. Men Up North is changing that,” said Angga Kara, founder of Men Up North.
“We’ve turned to new technology to fund our forest of mental wellness and we’re going back to nature to help men improve their wellbeing and mental resources. We chose mushrooms because they are popular online and have massive potential for boosting mental health.
“NFTs have already generated billions of pounds worth of sales. People buy them because they create a unique connection to the creator that does not exist with any other art form. They lend themselves well to social impact investing.”