A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care
Updated: Feb 12, 2018
The prevalence of mental ill-health is on the rise in the UK with an estimated one in four people experiencing a 'significant’ mental health problem in any one year. With the prescription of anti-depressants at record levels and a huge demand for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and other psychological therapies, health and social care commissioners are examining and commissioning different options for cost effective services for mental health.
There is increasing recognition of the importance of nature and place as a determinant of individuals’ mental health. Nature-based interventions are operating throughout the UK, working with a wide range of vulnerable groups helping to positively benefit health and wellbeing outcomes.
These nature-based interventions (also called green care and ecotherapy) could be part of a new solution for mental health care. However increasing awareness and access to these interventions is challenging given the number of organisations delivering nature-based projects and services, the variety of terms and language used to describe their activity and benefits and the variation in delivery models which use different impact measures. This research seeks to explore these issues and set out the steps required to enable a greater number of nature-based interventions to be commissioned in mental health care.
The mental health benefits for social and therapeutic horticulture, environmental conservation interventions and care farming were similar and include:
o Psychological restoration and increased general mental wellbeing
o Reduction in depression, anxiety and stress related symptoms
o Improvement in dementia-related symptoms
o Improved self-esteem, confidence and mood
o Increased attentional capacity and cognition
o Improved happiness, satisfaction and quality of life
o Sense of peace, calm or relaxation
o Feelings of safety and security
o Increased social contact, inclusion and sense of belonging
o Increase in work skills, meaningful activity and personal achievement