With the prescription of antidepressants at record levels and a high demand for psychological therapies, health and social care commissioners are interested in examining and commissioning new treatment interventions for mental health.
There are now numerous local and national organisations offering a range of nature-based interventions as specifically designed and structured health or social care treatment interventions for vulnerable groups in society, including those with mental illness. Could these nature-based interventions (termed ‘Green Care’ or ‘Ecotherapy’) be part of a new solution for mental healthcare?
Part of the challenge to increasing the availability of green care interventions on a wider scale, is that there are numerous organisations delivering nature-based programmes and services in this field, using different language to describe their activity and benefits, operating different delivery models and using different measurements of impact.
Many green care organisations have expressed the need for service providers to work better together to improve the coherence of these services and streamline access to these services for health commissioners. In order to address the issues and limitations associated with differing language within the green care field, a questionnaire survey was conducted to explore the current use of the terms ‘ecotherapy’ vs ’green care’ vs ’nature-based interventions’.
In addition, in order to gain an overview of impacts and mental health improvements stemming from green care, a literature review of all evidence relating to the three largest and most commonly occurring forms of green care – social and therapeutic horticulture, environmental conservation interventions and care farming – was also conducted. This review focused on nature-based interventions where improving an individual’s mental health was a primary goal of the service and where services were treatment for people with an existing mental health problem.
This study examined the benefits, commonality and outcomes of these three green care approaches, to help raise awareness, understanding and value placed on these services by mental health commissioners, thereby helping to increase the number of projects commissioned. Finally, this study also examined the scale of the three types of green care interventions across the UK and the current commissioning routes for green care to help inform potential new nature-based service providers.
Read the review here – NECR204_edition_1