Blue prescribing at London Wetland Centre, Barnes SW13

By the Press Association, 2021:

“A “blue prescribing” scheme has been launched to help hundreds of people improve their mental health through spending time in wetlands.

The scheme to allow up to 300 people to take part in a six-week nature-based health programme in London comes as a poll for the Mental Health Foundation shows two-thirds of people think being near water improves their wellbeing.

The initiative at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) London Wetland Centre in Barnes (the site is formed of four disused Victorian reservoirs tucked into a loop in the Thames) has been set up in response to growing evidence that being in nature can reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

A survey for the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) by YouGov of more than 4,000 adults backs that up, with 65% of people saying they found being near the coast, rivers, lakes and ponds had a positive impact on their mental health.

The blue prescribing project will give people who are experiencing poor mental health and have limited access to water in natural settings the chance to take part in hands-on activities in a “watery” landscape to improve their mental and physical wellbeing.

It follows a pilot programme of a similar programme of similar design at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire, and its effects will be scientifically evaluated, the team behind the scheme said.

It will be co-designed between the WWT, the Mental Health Foundation and those taking part, with activities to build people’s health, knowledge and confidence in wetland nature and enable them to continue exploring nature independently to improve their long-term mental health.

Travel will be fully funded and there will be financial support to help people get online for a nature-based, mental-health, self-management course as part of the scheme, which is funded by SimplyHealth.

Dr Jonathan Reeves, from WWT, said: “The benefits of getting out in nature for our mental wellbeing has become well known during the pandemic, but those experiencing mental health problems, and those most at risk, still face greater barriers to accessing nature.

“They are more likely to live in urban areas with fewer natural spaces and less likely to have the means to travel to those spaces.

“The blue prescribing scheme at London Wetland Centre aims to enable greater access to ‘watery’ wetland nature to those that most need it.”

Jolie Goodman, from the MHF, said: “Many people in Britain get no support for their mental health from the NHS.

“Projects like blue prescribing which will start at the London Wetland Centre later this summer are a way for people to protect their own mental health and prevent them needing crisis support.”

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