Over the last five years more than 12,000 people have taken part in ‘Ecominds’, an ecotherapy project funded by mental health charity Mind. Seven out of 10 people who took part reported a ‘significant increase in well-being’, with more than 250 of them being helped into full-time employment.
The University of Essex carried out research into the effectiveness of the programme and found that participants had more drive to become involved in their community after the programme. They also reported improved self-esteem and a greater desire to see friends and family.
Mind say that introducing as few as five people to ecotherapy could save the state an incredible £35,000 a year in healthcare costs and Job Seekers’ Allowance.
Over 50% of GPs who responded to a survey about ecotherapy said it was a suitable treatment for anxiety and depression. However, more information would be required before they could confidently prescribe it as a form of therapy.
Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer, said it was time the medical profession reviewed evidence regarding holistic treatments to make them more widely available:
“Last year a staggering fifty million antidepressant prescriptions were issued and currently one in five people with mental health problems have to wait up to a year to access talking treatments. When growing numbers of people are affected by mental health problems each year and they’re telling us that they want more options than drugs, now is the time for commissioners across health, social care and public health to take a fresh look at this evidence and realise the long-term benefits that holistic treatments like ecotherapy can deliver.”
One participant of the Ecominds project is Wayne Franks, an ex-serviceman who was suffering from post-traumatic stress and depression. Wayne joined the project in 2010 where participants could help with creating a new wildlife garden, growing vegetables, building an outdoor shelter or just relax in nature.
Wayne admits that he didn’t think nature could help him in his situation, but now agrees that it has had a profound effect. Looking back Wayne says without the project he doesn’t think he would still be here.