Woodland Therapy Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

By Reporter, The HighLand Times, Thursday May 17 2018

Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) award-winning mental health and wellbeing project, Branching Out, celebrates its 10-year anniversary this month (May).

The pioneering 12-week programme is designed to help improve people’s confidence, mental wellbeing and communication skills through a range of outdoor activities.

Across Scotland, Branching Out delivers up to 50 projects a year within nine NHS board areas and is estimated to have helped over 2,000 people.

Launching in the Highlands in 2014, the programme has supported 230 people in the area through 27 projects.

Adopting a holistic, person-centred approach promoting ‘five ways to better mental health’, Branching Out takes place in forests, woodlands and other green spaces where participants take part in a range of activities covering key areas such as bushcraft skills, practical conservation, physical activity, creativity and environmental art, and personal development or learning.

Celebrating the 10-year anniversary, Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“This Government is committed to supporting people with mental health problems.

“The Branching Out programme is an innovative way of using woodlands and greenspace to improve people’s mental health well-being.

“The positive feedback from those taking part in the programme has been impressive. “Nearly 80 per cent of those complete the course and report increased levels of health, well-being and self-esteem, as well as learning new skills and increasing their exercise levels. “This is great news.”

Led by qualified Branching Out leaders, participants benefit from the project’s clear routine, structure and non-clinical setting and enjoy three hours of woodland activities a week with each session adapted to meet the needs of each individual group.

Nathalie Moriarty, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Branching Out programme manager, adds:

“Mental health is something that we all think about and consider now as part of our everyday lives to maintain a healthy and happy life. 

“As people become more aware of their own mental health, outdoor programmes such as Branching Out have become ever more relevant and effective.”

With an increased focus on mental health across all aspects of our lives, Branching Out’s role may become larger over the next 10 years.

Originally developed and funded by FCS, the success of the programme has enabled FCS to pass the structured model onto partner organisations and provide an outdoor training and accreditation programme for leaders, which has been endorsed by the Institute for Outdoor Learning and NHS Health Scotland.

Forestry Commission Scotland is now working with 22 partners in 9 NHS board areas delivering up to 50 projects a year.



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