Taking part in activities such as horticulture and farming can help people who are experiencing mental ill health and reduce levels of anxiety, stress and depression, a new report has claimed.
The report, ‘A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care’ suggests that green care interventions can provide an increasingly important and cost-effective way of supporting mental health services and recommends greater use of them to help people experiencing mental ill health. The review was commissioned by Natural England from the University of Essex and mental health charity Mind.
There are three main green care interventions currently helping people in England with mental ill health: care farming, environmental conservation and social and therapeutic horticulture. The report presents evidence that shows that projects in each of these areas is making a difference to people’s lives and bring a range of benefits for those with mental ill health. These include a reduction in the symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, and an improvement in dementia-related symptoms.
The report also shows that people involved in these types of green care activities have a greatly increased level of social contact and inclusion, as well as a sense of belonging and personal achievement.
A range of actions that would help increase awareness and access to nature-based support for mental health care in England are recommended in the report. For instance, Natural England has commissioned Care Farming UK to identify practical models and case studies to increase the scale of green care services.
The report also identified the need for greater collaboration and leadership to help transform the provision of Green Care services. The launch of the Green Care Coalition, with some 25 organisations from the care farming sector to social and therapeutic horticulture organisations, will help tackle this issue.
Welcoming the report, Environment Minister, Rory Stewart, said: “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.”
Alan Law, Natural England’s chief strategy and reform officer, said: “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.”
Bragg R & Atkins G (2015) A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care. Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number 204.