Nature is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Funding for green social prescribing helps communities recover from COVID-19

At least 7,500 people will be connected to nature for their health and wellbeing, thanks to 10 innovative green social prescribing projects across the country, funded by cross-partnership Thriving Communities Fund. 

These projects will seek to unlock the potential of green social prescribing for people in their communities especially those most impacted by COVID-19 and health inequalities, helping them realise the full range of health benefits from participating in nature-based activities.  

This years’ Mental Health Awareness week highlights how access to nature and the outdoors has been a lifeline for many people over the last year. Research from the Mental Health Foundation on the mental health impacts of the pandemic showed going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies and 45% of us reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health.  

Social prescribing is the process of connecting an individual with a link worker who will help people to connect with community based activities, related to their health and wellbeing needs. Green social prescribing links people to nature-based interventions and activities and includes outdoor exercise, local runs, active travel, care farming, community gardening and food growing projects, conservation volunteering, green gyms, and arts and cultural activities which take place outdoors. 

The Thriving Communities Fund, led by National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) with the support of Arts Council England, Historic England and Natural England, NHS England and Improvement, Sport England, the Money and Pensions Service, and NHS Charities Together seeks to further bring the benefits of social prescribing to over 10,000 people through 37 projects and at least 1,700 activities, to help them recover from the impact of COVID-19.  The Fund, recipients of which were announced on Social Prescribing Day 18 March 2021, supports NASP’s objective to advance social prescribing through promotion, collaboration and innovation by forming partnerships and engaging local communities, with the ultimate aim of helping people to be able to live the best life they can. 

Partners in Plymouth will provide a health and wellbeing programme for new audiences in Central Park, Plymouth. A range of activities including physical activity, outdoor theatre and conservation offerings will support 400 people to get access to nature and the outdoors.  

“Many vulnerable people that do not have access nor the disposable income to discover the natural environment around our city, and therefore the Park, which is in walking distance is their potential gateway to a green environment,” says Deputy CEO and Business Development Manager YMCA Plymouth, a lead partner on the project. 

“For many with long-term conditions they have become isolated as they have had to be shielded, and the open space of Delapre Park, which sits within an urban environment, provides an opportunity for people to come together and be safe together,” says Aimee Holmes at Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust who are leading a project to bring a nature focused Green Happy Café to Delapre Park in Northampton to promote green social prescribing. 

Nature Buddies is a green social prescribing focused project providing connections to support Dorset communities. The project will bring together providers to the Nature Buddies networks, train 30 Nature Buddies, and offer 30 nature-inspired arts activities to 150 community groups.   

Jo March Arts, Health and Wellbeing Lead at The Arts Development Trust in Dorset says “The pandemic has affected communities, isolating people from family, friends and activities that previously supported them.  We know the impact of nature and participation in arts or physical activities on wellbeing has never been so important and that Dorset’s natural and cultural landscape can have a large part to play in this.” 

James Sanderson, CEO of the National Academy for Social Prescribing says: 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of being outdoors to people’s mental and physical health. Thriving Communities Fund projects focusing on green social prescribing will enable more people to be connected to green, outdoors and nature based activities through social prescribing link workers. We’re delighted to see that the funded projects are already making progress to embed green social prescribing in local health care.”