Gardening, art, sport – 'prescriptions' for mental health that don't involve pills

Social prescribing, where patients are referred to non-clinical activities, is producing positive outcomes. But can the voluntary sector keep up with demand?   Group therapeutic work had never appealed to Kerina, who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder in her 30s after suffering from mental health issues all her life. “You sit there reading paperwork and it feels like you’re in a classroom,” she says.   Then two years ago the community mental health team in Mid Ross in the Scottish Highlands gave her a “social prescription” – referring her to Branching Out, a Forestry Commission Scotland programme designed to help people recover from long-term mental health problems. For 12 weeks she spent five hours a week in the woods doing conservation work, bushcraft and environmental art.   “I enjoyed it straightaway,” says Kerina, who now volunteers as a mentor with the Abriachan Forest Trust, where she completed the course. “It’s so different from your normal life. You go out there and all your worries leave you. We built shelters, tables, workbenches, a kitchen. We chopped wood, we cooked, we sat around the campfire.   “It just seemed to really work for me. I remember saying: ‘I feel like I’ve been here for ages.’ I’d only been there a day.” Though she still has good and bad days, she says she now finds her problems easier to deal with, and is working towards a formal award in volunteering.   The use of social prescribing – where GPs and other primary care professionals refer patients to non-medical activities, such as gardening, arts and sports, normally delivered by the voluntary sector – is growing, with many schemes tackling mild to moderate mental health problems. Studies have suggested a range of positive mental health and wellbeing outcomes.   Excerpt from The Guardian, read the full article here

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