Wilderness course for better mental health

A new course has been announced as part of a Scottish mental health initiative aimed at helping individuals to learn basic wilderness skills. Run by Forestry Commission Scotland, the Branching Out programme - which also encourages people to take part in conservation activities - will now be running a new 12-week scheme in East Renfrewshire.

Participants will join in a number of pursuits helping them to get closer to nature, such as forest photography, tree identification, tai chi, site walks, willow weaving and hut building.

The Glasgow Association for Mental Health and the East Renfrewshire Council are helping to run the course - which has been designed to help individuals enjoy improved mental wellbeing, greater confidence and self-esteem levels, as well as to boost their physical activity commitments.

Kirsty Catherine, Branching Out Programme Manager at Forestry Commission Scotland - created in 2003 following the Forestry Devolution Review - said the initiative will benefit those taking part by "enabling them to build their confidence and engage with outdoor activities which can lead to a real sense of achievement".

Carole Seheult, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Behavioural change encompassing physical activities in the open countryside and involvement in social groups where there is a focus on acquiring new skills, improving self-confidence and feelings of autonomy, has long been advocated as good first-step advice for anyone suffering from mild to moderate mental health symptoms such as those of depression, ongoing stress and anxiety. 

"Such activities have also been endorsed by NICE recognising that such self-help measures may have preventative as well as therapeutic benefits allowing the individual to feel more in control of their life and future. 

"However such activities cannot replace proper primary mental health or specialist psychological intervention, when necessary, although they may well provide a valuable adjunct to therapy in some situations.

"Glasgow Association for Mental Health and East Renfrewshire Council are to be congratulated on this innovative approach to enhancing mental well being as well as improving levels of physical fitness and activity."