No I'm not talking about CBD oil, much to the dismay of a friend of mine who runs a business producing it, I'm actually talking about the medical concept of helping patients with mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, benefiting from outdoor countryside activities. This isn't a fanciful idea, but rather a proven support and recovery tool that maybe many of us involved in countryside pursuits knew already....without actually knowing it!
As some of us our fortunate to be coming out of lockdown, the negative effects that the near solitary confinement some people have been exposed to, will likely have far reaching impacts that wont become known for some time. Humans are by nature, social beings, and whilst urbanisation has brought millions of people physically closer together it doesn't necessarily translate to greater social interaction. We shouldn't also forget that until very recently in human history, human beings were predominantly rural folk living off the land without the stress of modern 'connected' living to contend with. Staying alive was the order of the day by harvesting what was around us. It would be romantic to believe that our historic lives were stress free and we relaxed in glorious sunshine with a plentiful supply of food and water all around us. However, we know that then, as it is now, harvesting the wild is no easy task, but there is something inherently satisfying about it. Maybe it was this, combined with the need to stimulate social interaction, that led a London doctor (Sam Everington) to link activities in allotments to his treatment of patients with depression and anxiety back in the 1980s. The results of his studies spurned a new chapter in the way the NHS dealt with these illnesses and the phrase 'Prescribing Green' was coined. NHS England's website describes this type of care as:
Social prescribing and community-based support enable GPs, other health and care practitioners and local agencies to refer people to a link worker who gives people time and focuses on what matters to the individual. For some people this will be green social prescribing, which links them to nature-based interventions and activities, such as local walking for health schemes, community gardening and food-growing projects.
It is no surprise therefore, that fishing has now been 'prescribed' on the NHS. The Manchester Evening Echo reports that the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust has teamed up with Tackling Minds, a fishing social group, to form a scheme to help patients suffering with mental health illnesses.
Its easy for us all to get drawn inside ourselves whilst stuck at home managing the daily assault of bills and work; that never ending cycle of demand and supply, which saps our motivation to do anything other than curl up in a ball most likely watching other people on a video streaming site doing the things we want to do. Try as we might, we struggle to get up and get out, but when we do the rewards aren't only immediate but they exceed our expectations. Many a time I've found myself straining under the pressure of daily living where I feel as though I just want to extract myself to a private island and live the life I love so much outdoors but simply can't get passed rolling the dice let alone 'Go' on this real world monopoly board we seem to inhabit. But, when I do finally break free, my spirit lifts the longer the day goes on, my troubles pale into insignificance, and I get renewed energy for living rather than existing. Maybe thats what keeps some friends of mine going outdoors so much. I know some of them suffer from mental illness but they have somehow found an underlying force to keep getting out there. I believe its a case of perpetual motion with each side of the conundrum fuelling the other.
Whatever the reason I don't think there is a need to 'identify' it, as being content simply to know it exists is enough isn't it? Somethings are instinctive. For me the benefits of engaging in countryside pursuits, enjoying nature, the weather, and your own thoughts, whilst understanding the conservation benefits of our actions on the fauna and flora around us is absolutely instinctive. The more people who can benefit from that, the better.