Home   News   Article

Health Matters: Growing healthy young minds through engaging with nature

By Contributor

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Getting outdoors can bring significant mental health benefits.
Getting outdoors can bring significant mental health benefits.

With Green Health Week now up and running, offering a packed schedule of events and activities being coordinated by colleagues from Think Health Think Nature it feels very much on theme that I can share the exciting news of funding for a new project focusing on young people’s mental health and wellbeing through engagement with nature and local green spaces.

The Medical Research Council has awarded the University of South Wales (USW) nearly £150,000 to fund the “Healthy Young Minds” project, to be delivered in partnership with local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (NHS Highland), working with young people in rural high school settings across the Highlands to co-produce an early intervention programme for supporting young people’s mental health through being outdoors, connecting with nature, and accessing local green spaces, such as parks and woodlands.

There is a huge amount of evidence highlighting how beneficial to our mental health and wellbeing it can be to spend time outdoors in green spaces, connecting with nature. We possibly all learnt this during the Covid-19 lockdowns, where we were allowed our hour’s walk outside, and how important that time became. But since the easing of lockdown we have seen a huge rise in demand for children and young people’s mental health, locally and nationally, with services at all levels struggling to find the resources needed to address this demand.

Catch up with our columnists

Health news

Subscribe to receive regular email newsletters

And yet, within the Highlands we are privileged in having access to vast amounts of green space and opportunities for engagement with nature, compared to many other areas across the country. Given we know the benefits of engagement with nature on our mental health and wellbeing, then surely we should be exploring these opportunities further, especially when thinking about young people in rural communities. This is especially so when there is compelling evidence that accessing green spaces can directly impact on health inequalities.

The task of this project is to work with young people, in five secondary schools, to understand what some of the barriers might be to accessing green spaces, and to then think together about what would make an outdoor intervention, where there may be different ways of engaging with nature, meaningful and relevant for young people.

We aim to develop the ideas for this green intervention through a series of workshops with young people, as involving them in the programme design is key to engagement and motivation. Enabling them to take ownership will increase chances of acceptability, adoption and sustainability. Our hope is that the workshops will increase self-confidence, build skills and give students an opportunity to discuss their views on mental health.

This project is such a wonderful opportunity to work with young people to explore how nature and access to green spaces can impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people in rural settings. Being able to announce the award of this grant during Green Health Week is the perfect fit. So, the seeds of the project have been planted, now it’s time to let it grow.

For more information about Green Health Week and Think Health Think Nature please go to https://www.thinkhealththinknature.scot/_greenhealthweek/

Nick Barnes works as a child and adolescent psychiatrist for Highland CAMHS, and is an honorary senior lecturer at University of Aberdeen

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More