Woodland course used to improve mental health

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A group of ten people using mental health services across West Dunbartonshire have taken part in an award ceremony to celebrate completion of a 12-week woodland course, known as Branching Out, in the Kilpatrick Hills and Lang Craigs.

The course marks the first time the Woodland Trust Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland have worked together to deliver the ‘Branching Out’ programme on behalf of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for mental health patients in the area.

Set up in 2007, Branching Out is a flagship programme developed by Forestry Commission Scotland that delivers mental, physical and social benefits for people with mental health issues by helping with confidence building, increasing physical activity and greater independence.

Kirsty Cathrine, Branching Out Programme manager at Forestry Commission Scotland said: “Branching Out is a hugely successful programme that helps people onto a new path where they start participating and integrating with society again – it can be life changing.”

Referred from community or hospital based mental health services, the participants mostly struggle with severe depression and anxiety.  The Commission worked with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to identify suitable entrants, who undertake the programme voluntarily.

Participants received three hours of woodland based activities once a week for the past 12 weeks with a supervising mental health staff member who also took part.  Activities included: physical exercise (health walks), conservation activities (rhododendron clearing), bushcraft (no trace fire lighting), environmental art (photography / willow sculptures) and learning (tree identification).

Celebrating successful completion of the course, participants attended a ceremony, receiving a Discovery Level John Muir Award to mark their commitment and progress, with family and friends.  Participants are then sign posted to other local activities to keep them moving forward with their progress. 

Eilidh Spence, woodland learning and community officer at Woodland Trust Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be running Branching Out and making it available to people living in West Dunbartonshire.

“A number of participants mentioned that they use to love exploring the hills as children but as they grew up this has fallen to the wayside.  Exploring the Kilpatrick Hills and Lang Craigs as a group, will hopefully give each individual the confidence to get back into the outdoors more regularly - whether it’s continuing with conservation work, starting up hill walking or just enjoying the freedom the hills have to offer.”

The Commission currently works with NHS Borders, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Valley, NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Lothian and NHS Tayside to train new delivery partners to run Branching Out courses.


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 https://twitter.com/FCScotlandNews

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.    The Year of Natural Scotland 2013, the final in a series of four focus years, is a chance to highlight the great natural assets of our country and celebrate our reputation as a land of outstanding beauty. New and existing events throughout the year will promote ways in which visitors can enjoy our beautiful landscapes, wildlife and heritage responsibly. www.visitscotland.com  

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


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