How the Myplace ecotherapy project helps people enjoy the great outdoors

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 January 2020

Staff and participants at a Myplace celebration day

Staff and participants at a Myplace celebration day

Alice Singleton

Nature has the power to change lives and more people than ever before are moving to nature as a prescription for their health and wellbeing, writes Ellen Sherlock from Lancashire Wildlife Trust

Taking part in ecotherapy sessions at Myplace by Alice SingletonTaking part in ecotherapy sessions at Myplace by Alice Singleton

The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside have known for years about the incredible benefits of spending time in nature. Now, in partnership with the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, The Wildlife Trust has been able to support over 1,000 people to discover the joys of the outdoors through their Myplace ecotherapy project.

One of the people to benefit from the project is Simon who was referred to the Myplace project by his mentor at The Richmond Fellowship last year.

'Before coming to Myplace I suffered with addiction, depression, social anxiety,' he said. 'I would isolate and close myself off from the world. My Myplace project officer offered me a lot of encouragement, support and tools on how to expand my skills. One of the main skills being my social skills; how to interact, how to start conversations and how conversations flow. Myplace has made my transition back into life far easier and it's certainly helped my confidence and self-esteem. I thought my life was going to go one of three ways; I was going to end up in a hospital somewhere, in a prison cell or on a slab. I didn't imagine I would be here being able to offer what I do today.'

Simon has recently been appointed one of the trainees at Myplace, using his skills and experiences to help others. 'To be able to jump into that pit with people and show them a way out is so rewarding.'

Taking part in ecotherapy sessions at Myplace by Alice SingletonTaking part in ecotherapy sessions at Myplace by Alice Singleton

Spending even short periods of time in nature can have huge benefits for people's health and wellbeing and has been scientifically proven to reduce people's stress, anxiety and also help them with other mental health and self-confidence issues. A recent study conducted by Essex University on behalf of The Wildlife Trusts found that 95% of people who had low levels of mental wellbeing at the start reported feeling better after just six weeks of volunteering in nature. Nature offers people the opportunity to step away from the stresses of modern life, re-connect with the wider world, share and learn new skills and feel part of the wider community.

Since the project began in 2016, over 1000 people have benefited from regular contact with nature; attending weekly sessions at locations throughout Lancashire.

Now, in light of all the recent success of the Myplace project, this innovative approach to mental health and wellbeing is expanding to reach more people than ever before - delivering sessions at more locations and extending into hospitals and inpatient facilities. There will also be opportunities for businesses to get involved with Wild Wellbeing Days.

In September last year, Myplace launched their Our Sheds programme, a scheme aimed at helping men and women from all walks of life to reconnect with their community, forge new friendships and keep up those skills learned from a lifetime's experience.

Our Sheds has already had huge benefits for wildlife and communities - it is currently operating from three sites in Lancashire; Fleetwood, Preston and Ormskirk. Myplace is also extending their work with a new session for over 25s starting up in Bolton.

Myplace is a free ecotherapy service, open to a huge range of people. Sessions are run for people aged 13 to 50+ with opportunities for individuals to gain accredited awards and to enhance their employability prospects. Individuals can self-refer on to the project by calling 01772 872007, or online at lancswt.org.uk/Myplace

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