Woodland course in East Ayrshire to improve mental health

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A group of seven East Ayrshire people using mental health services from the Morven Day Centre are celebrating completion of a 12 week ‘Branching Out’ woodland course at an awards ceremony today (Thursday 10 January).

To mark their successful completion of the course, each of the participants was presented with a Discovery Level John Muir Award.

The first of its kind in the area, the Branching Out programme 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.

Ryan Mitchell from Kilmarnock, who took part in the course, commented:  “I really enjoyed taking part in Branching Out; it’s been so good for me, both for my mental well-being and for my physical health as I’ve been getting much more exercise.

“Being outdoors really lifted my mood and I loved learning about the trees and how to make different kinds of fencing with branches. We even learned how to make fire safely outdoors.

“The staff were so welcoming and I felt very safe under their supervision. I loved it so much that I’m looking to do some volunteering now that it is over – I’m going to miss it!”

Over the 12 week course, participants enjoyed three hours of woodland based activities once a week , including physical exercise (health walks / tai chi), conservation activities (fence building / habitat creation), bushcraft (fire lighting / shelter building), environmental art (photography / woodland art) and learning (tree identification).

The Ayrshire group took part in the course at Craufurdland Estate with staff from Cumnock based East Ayrshire Woodlands, who had been trained and accreditation by Forestry Commission Scotland.

Mark Davies from East Ayrshire Woodlands said:  “We’re absolutely delighted to be running Branching Out and making it available to people living in Ayrshire.

“We feel that partnership projects such as Branching Out are invaluable to people who, for one reason or another are struggling with poor mental health or confidence and it is an extremely valuable part of the support network to enable people to progress, relax, learn and enjoy. It is also important to give peoplethe confidence to become more independent and in time, feel more able to seek other volunteering or employment opportunities.”

Kirsty Cathrine, Branching Out Programme Manager at Forestry Commission Scotland, added: “Branching Out is a hugely successful programme that helps people onto a new path where they start participating and integrating with society again. 

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

Referred from community or hospital based mental health services, people who take part in the course mostly struggle with severe depression and anxiety. 

The Commission has trained environmental organizations in seven NHS board areas to deliver the especially designed course. 

Notes to Editors

1.  Issued by Golley Slater on behalf of Forestry Commission Scotland
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