Ukraine support: Please read our latest update for more information.

Harnessing the power of nature to tackle Scotland’s looming mental health crisis

Published: March 22, 2021


Scottish charity Venture Trust is launching the Scotland’s first dedicated outdoor therapy programme. The mental health service will see trained therapists harness the power of the outdoors to support some of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people, adults, and veterans.

The Outdoor Therapy programme will involve a ‘walk and talk’ approach to therapy delivered by qualified staff and delivered in parks, community gardens, local woodland or accessible hills and beaches instead of the traditional clinic or office-based support.

The launch of the service comes at a time when Scotland’s mental health services are over-stretched, under-resourced, and unable to support some of the country’s most vulnerable young people and adults.

Recent statistics from Public Health Scotland continue to highlight young people are still not receiving mental health services when they need them:

  • 25% of young people referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are currently not seen within the target time of 18 weeks
  • 25% of children and young people were turned away from specialist mental health services during October to December 2020

The Princes Trust’s annual Youth Index published in January noted:

25% of young people feel “unable to cope with life” since the start of the pandemic, increasing to 40% for those not in work education or training

Research from the Scottish Association for Mental Health SAMH highlights almost half of people with mental health problems in Scotland felt they did not get care or treatment because of the pandemic.

The Outdoor Therapy programme will also look to support vulnerable adults including veterans who already faced mental health inequalities before the pandemic and lockdown.
Public Health Scotland statistics also show:
20% of the 17,023 adults who started psychological therapies during October to December 2020 waited longer than the official target of 18 weeks
None of the 14 regional NHS Boards met the 18-week target for adult psychological therapies services in Scotland

Veteran specific funding towards the service will be used to work with Scottish veterans struggling with their mental health. Venture Trust’s existing veteran support programme highlights a trend in veterans presenting with mental health issues from 50% in 2016/17 growing to 79% in 2019/20.

Venture Trust’s clinical manager Andy Hardie said the charity’s new outdoor therapy service can play a crucial role in supporting and complementing existing services to tackle the looming mental health crisis predicted in Scotland.

The system seemed close to breaking point before Covid-19 and the pandemic has only increased the pressure on it, he said.

“The benefits of the outdoors for mental health have been long understood but little utilised in a clinical sense and the value of the outdoors to improve mental health and wellbeing has been increasingly highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

“Whilst we value traditional approaches to therapy, we recognise that for some individuals the usual offer of support in clinical settings can seem daunting. As we move out of lockdown, Venture Trust’s offer of support within an outdoor setting can benefit individuals who may have sought support through traditional statutory therapeutic services such as GP’s, CAMHS, and other therapy services but have not been able to make the changes they were hoping for or were unable to gain access to services.” Hardie said.

The launch of the new service also brings into sharp focus the desperate need for further investment to increase and diversify mental health support for the most vulnerable young people, adults and veterans in Scotland.

Venture Trust Director of External Affairs Tejesh Mistry said the outdoor therapy service would rollout in the Edinburgh and Lothians area of Scotland but the aim was to increase the reach and offer when further funding is secured.

“As a charity organisation we have seen first-hand the impact of the pandemic on the mental and emotional wellbeing of Scotland’s most vulnerable people. Venture Trust will continue to explore funding avenues to increase the reach of this valuable and essential service.”

Scroll to top