Ecotherapy could help treat depression

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The statistics tell us that around one in four of us will develop a mental health problem at some time in our lives.

Most people who seek help for depression, anxiety or any other mental illness are likely to be offered medication, a type of talking therapy, or a combination of both.

Now, according to The Ecologist website, some Eco therapy should also be included as a potential treatment because “nature and the wild outdoors have the power to heal”.

David Topham is a support co-ordinator for Mind, the mental health charity, and each week in Taunton, he has been taking a group of people with mental health problems to a nature reserve to help carry out some conservation work.

The type of work they are doing isn’t particularly difficult, for example, helping to clear paths and undergrowth in order to encourage rare butterflies and preserve other species and there is also a guided walk by a Wildlife Trust Officer.

“Ecotherapy is just a posh way of saying get into the natural environment, do something physical and you’ll feel better about yourself” says Topham. “It’s not complicated but it’s very effective.”

He said that the feedback from those taking part in the project has been “overwhelmingly positive”.

Of course it’s not the first time we’ve heard that getting in touch with nature is good for our mental health.

“Green exercise has been proven to improve mental wellbeing, lifting mood and boosting self-esteem” Katy Prior, a spokesperson for Mind told The Ecologist.

“Whether it’s involvement in a horticultural development program, or an exercise program supervised by a therapist or even a rambling group, all can provide significant improvement to mental wellbeing. Green care should be offered as an additional treatment option” she said.

The name of the Taunton project, which launched a couple of months ago is “Go Wild, Stay Well” and is being run by the West Somerset branch of Mind in partnership with the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

The thing is, so called Green Exercise projects are not yet widely available across the country and are still a long way off from being prescribed by the doctor.

However, previous studies have shown that even as little as 30 minutes walking in a “green space” a few times a week can help prevent and treat depression.

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