BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 20 February '16

Connecting with Nature offers a new approach to mental health care

A new study published by Natural England shows that taking part in Nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress and depression.

1 in 4 affected

Mental ill-health is on the rise and in England it is estimated that in any one year at least 1 in 4 people will experience a ‘significant’ mental health problem.

The new report, from the University of Essex and Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, suggests that green care interventions can provide an increasingly important and cost-effective way of supporting mental health services.

‘This report highlights how nature makes a real difference to the quality of people’s daily lives. It shows what we can do to improve people’s wellbeing, working through new partnerships and offering new services.

‘There is now compelling evidence to show that contact with nature and the outdoors improves physical health and mental wellbeing. Natural England is committed to find ways to help more people access the benefits that come through practical experiences in the outdoors.’

Alan Law, Natural England’s Chief Strategy and Reform Officer

The benefits

The report, A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care, focuses on the three main green care interventions that are currently helping people in England with mental ill-health: care farming, environmental conservation and social and therapeutic horticulture.

The report presents evidence that the projects in each of these areas are already making a difference to people’s lives and bringing a range of positive benefits for those with existing mental ill health.

These include a reduction in depression, anxiety and stress symptoms, and an improvement in dementia-related symptoms.

The report also shows that people involved in these green care activities have a greatly increased level of social contact and inclusion, as well as a sense of belonging and personal achievement.

‘Mental health is one of the most serious and complex issues that we face in Britain today and it is great that we now have clearer scientific evidence that nature is so beneficial for our minds and our sense of self.

‘As part of our £900 million Countryside Stewardship scheme, we are supporting projects like care farms, providing effective recovery to those in need.’

Rory Stewart , Environment Minister

Next steps

The report recommends a range of actions that would help increase awareness and access to Nature-based support for mental health care in England.

Natural England has already commissioned Care Farming UK to identify practical models and case studies to increase the scale of green care services.

Natural England and the University of Exeter are preparing a series of Health and Environment fact sheets to summarise the most compelling evidence on the impact of the natural environment on a range of health and wellbeing outcomes.

The report identifies the need for greater collaboration and leadership to help enhance the provision of green care services. The launch of the Green Care Coalition, involving around 25 organisations from the care farming sector to social and therapeutic horticulture organisations, will help tackle this issue.

Click here to read the full report, A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care.