The mental health charity Mind has released Feel Better Outside, Feel Better Inside, a report including new findings from the University of Essex showing the benefits of 'ecotherapy' for mental wellbeing.
It has been proven to improve mental health, boost self esteem, help people with mental health problems return to work, improve physical health, and reduce social isolation.
Over the last five years Mind funded 130 Ecominds projects with support from the Big Lottery Fund. These projects have introduced more than 12,000 people with and at risk of developing mental health problems to gardening, food growing or environmental conservation work.
Key findings reveal that:
- Mind’s Ecominds scheme helped 254 people find full-time employment with potential annual savings and contributions to the State of £1.46 million.
- Introducing five people with mental health problems to ecotherapy saved more than £35,000 each year in costs for medication, Jobseeker’s Allowance, and healthcare.
- Seven in ten (69 per cent) people experienced significant increases in wellbeing by the time they left the Ecominds project.
- Three in five (57 per cent) felt that there were more people in their lives who cared about them and they met more often with friends and relatives.
- Four in five (81 per cent) got more involved in community activities and felt connected to where they live.
- Men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health problems and ecotherapy is a great way to engage them in wellbeing services - men formed three in five (56 per cent) of Ecominds participants.
Mind found from a survey of GPs working across England and Wales that even though over half agreed that ecotherapy is a valid and suitable treatment for anxiety (52 per cent) and depression (51 per cent), nearly three in five (56 per cent) said they need to see more evidence of the benefits of ecotherapy to refer confidently.
Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said: "Our research shows people commissioning mental health services and social care that a holistic treatment like ecotherapy delivers not only health benefits, but wider social benefits and cost savings that medication could not.
"Ecotherapy improves mental wellbeing, it helps people to become more physically active, it gives people the skills to get back into work or training, and it helps people who are lonely or socially isolated to broaden their networks. These are all important factors that can prevent people developing a mental health problem to start with.