10 innovative green social prescribing projects are connecting more than 7,500 people through nature, in a bid to improve health and wellbeing with the power of the natural world
Thriving Communities Fund, a new national support programme for voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise groups, is funding the projects that aim to help communities in England impacted by health inequalities and COVID-19, through green social prescribing.
The 10 projects see local communities partake in a variety of outdoor activities designed to connect individuals through theatre, conservation, green gyms, farming, food growing projects and alfresco cafes.
Social prescribing connects local people with a link worker who helps that person connect with community-based activities that are beneficial to their individual health and wellbeing needs. In the case of green social prescribing, this initiative works with nature-based interventions to encourage people to connect with the well-versed benefits of outdoor projects.
Getting in touch with nature has been a lifeline for many as we’ve navigated the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, research from April 2020 conducted by leading mental health charity, Mental Health Foundation revealed that 60% of the studies’ recipients used outside walks as their coping mechanisms in the height of the pandemic. This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (10 May - 16 May) theme of nature, invites us to celebrate our connection to green space for positive mental wellbeing.
Green social prescribing projects
“The pandemic has affected communities, isolating people from family, friends and activities that previously supported them,” says Jo March, Arts, Health and Wellbeing Lead at The Arts Development Trust leading the Nature Buddies project in Dorset. “We know the impact of nature and participation in arts or physical activities on wellbeing has never been so important and that Dorset’s natural and cultural landscape can have a large part to play in this.”
Just one of the green social prescribing projects, Nature Buddies has trained 100 link workers and other healthcare providers to connect individuals with anxiety and low confidence to 30 nature-inspired activities in the Dorset area.
Green Happy Café is another project lined to receive vital funding in the green social prescribing space. The first England-based green cafe is a wellbeing hub heading to Northamptonshire’s Delapre Park that aims to reach 3,000 people by setting up pop-up cafes in heritage spaces covering arts, culture, physical activity and the natural world.
Aimee Holmes of Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust who are leadingGreen Happy Café says this initiative provides an essential safe haven for those previously cut off from society due to the pandemic. “For many with long-term conditions they have become isolated as they have had to shield.
"The open space of Delapre Park, which sits within an urban environment, provides an opportunity for people to come together and be safe together.”
The Thriving Communities Fund is led by National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) that seeks to engage local communities in forming collaborations and partnerships through the advancement of social prescribing. Their mission champions the work of local communities in connecting people for wellbeing.
If you have been struggling with your mental health or are feeling lonely or isolated, support is available and green social prescribing may provide the connection that is vital for us as human beings. To find out about your local projects, visit the National Academy for Social Prescribing.
If you need to talk, head to Counselling Directory where you can find numerous qualified therapists who offer both traditional talking therapy and outdoor therapy that you might like to explore.