100th milestone for woodland mental health programme

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Forestry Commission Scotland is celebrating the successful completion of the 100th ‘Branching Out’ woodland mental health course in Glasgow.

The group is made up of refugees and people seeking asylum who are involved with the Compass Team, part of NHS GG&C Trauma Service and are the 100th to complete the 12 week course.

Many participants who complete the course are presented with the John Muir Discovery Award. The 100th group has taken the total number of John Muir Discovery Awards presented to Branching Out participants since the programme began to 600.

The Branching Out programme has helped nearly 1000 people across Scotland since its inception. It was set up in 2007 by Forestry Commission Scotland to deliver mental, physical and social benefits for people with mental health issues by helping with confidence building, increasing physical activity and greater independence, and promoting a sense of connectedness.

KirstyCathrine, Branching Out Programme Manager at Forestry Commission Scotland, added: “We are so proud to have got to the point where 100 Branching Out groups have now taken place. It is a hugely successful programme that helps people onto a new path where they start participating and integrating with society again. 

“Everybody who takes part is encouraged to get involved in other local activities to keep them moving forward with their progress.  It can be life changing.”

The programme was initially run and funded directly by Forestry Commission Scotland, however its success has enabled the Commission to pass the model onto organisations such as local authority ranger services and environmental charities. So far, the Forestry Commission team has trained environmental organisations in seven NHS board areas to deliver the course.

Over the 12 week course, participants enjoy three hours of woodland based activities once a week, including physical exercise on a variety of themed walks, conservation activities (woodland management, habitat creation, nest box building), bushcraft (fire lighting and using kelly kettles), environmental art (photography,  woodland art, watercolour) and learning (tree identification, bird identification and butterfly and bee surveys).

The Glasgow group took part in the course at Rouken Glen Country Park in the south of Glasgow and was run by staff from Forestry Commission Scotland and from the Compass Team, an NHS mental health service for asylum seekers and refugees who have experienced complex trauma.

Sharon Rae: “We’re absolutely delighted to be running Branching Out and making it available to people involved with Compass.

“Branching Out is an innovative programme that helps people who, for one reason or another, have experienced changes in their mental wellbeing. Engagement with the activities offered has created opportunities for enjoyment, relaxation, an improved social network and reconnection as well as providing opportunities for new experiences. Feedback from participants has been incredibly positive with one individual describing being involved in Branching Out as ‘bringing me back to life’.”

Ross Morrison from Galashiels took part in Branching Out through NHS Borders. He commented:

“I absolutely loved Branching Out. Each week we progressed onto bigger challenges so there was a real sense of achievement. One of the days we were tracking animals and saw a roe deer which was amazing. There was also a robin in the woodland where our sessions were held and it came out every day when we were having lunch; we saw so much wildlife.

“Branching Out got me out of the house and doing something active – if I hadn’t been on the course I would just have been at home watching TV. I haven’t done anything like this since I was at school, so I’ve loved every second of getting back outdoors.”

Referred from community or hospital based mental health services, people who take part in the course may have difficulties linked to severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

Notes to Editors:

1.  Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government’s Environment & Forestry Directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland

2. For news, events and recreation information log on to www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests or www.twitter.com/fcscotland

3.  The FCS agobair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridhcoilltearachdRiaghaltasna h-Alba agus a’ riaghladhnan 660,000 heactaireanann an OighreachdnaCoilleNàiseanta, a’ dìonadh, a’ cumailsmachd air agus a’ leudachadhnancoillteangusbuannachdan a thoirtdhacoimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidhagus, agobair an aghaidhatharrachadhgnàth-shìde. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland

4. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0131 314 6508. 


e-mail: steve.williams@forestry.gsi.gov.uk