Nature’s pill: prescribe ‘ecotherapy’ for mental health problems, says charity

People experiencing mental health problems should be provided with therapy in the great outdoors, according to a new report from mental health charity Mind, which included findings from the University of Essex

Ecotherapy is a form of treatment where people take part in outdoor activities under guidance of professionals who have had mental health training.

Mind’s report, Feel Better Outside, Feel Better Inside, provides evidence that ecotherapy boosts self-esteem, improves physical health, reduces social isolation and helps people return to work. It can also benefit those at risk of developing mental health problems.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “Last year, a staggering 50m antidepressant prescriptions were issued … Now is the time for commissioners across health, social care and public health to take a fresh look at this evidence and realise the long-term benefits that holistic treatments like ecotherapy can deliver.”

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Exeter have found that moving to a greener area not only improves people’s mental health, but that the effect continues long after they have moved.

Dr Ian Alcock from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health said: “These findings have significance for urban planning policy … New parks and urban corridors might have long-term benefits for communities.”