Getting out into the great outdoors is good for us all, especially at this time of year. And what could be more delightful than colluding with nature in a spot of gardening, to fully immerse oneself in the experience.
It seems that such a strategy may be more than just a good idea for people with depression and anxiety - it may turn out to be an invaluable therapeutic strategy, if a new pilot scheme by the NHS Vale Royal Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is anything to go by.
Run by Groundwork Cheshire, 'Grozone' is an existing community garden project that welcomes volunteers to help with gardening and other outdoor activities. What's new here is the CCG's decision to actively recommend that patients from local GP practices take up places on the project, with the aim of improving their social interactions and mental health.
Those signing up to beat the blues with a dose of green may find themselves involved in propagating, growing fruit and vegetables, garden maintenance and even cooking, as part of the 12-week programme. Their progress will be monitored by participating GP practices, who will use three short, confidential surveys asking patients to record any changes in the way they feel over the course of the term.
Dr Jonathon Griffiths, Chair of Vale Royal CCG is enthusiastic about the scheme and hopeful that Grozone could really help people to boost their mental wellbeing:
"The CCG wanted to provide something in the area that would support people with depression and anxiety. Grozone is a fantastic programme which is suitable for people with a range of physical capabilities and access needs."Last year, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), a national provider of information, data and IT systems for health and social care, published figures showing that more than 50 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in the UK in 2012 - the highest ever number and 7.5% higher than the year before. With prescriptions at such an all-time high, is it time to consider prescribing a dose of pottering in the garden shed as a possible alternative?
Perhaps not for all and perhaps not a complete substitution, but let's train our eyes on work like this to see where it leads.
Do you have experience of working with patients using natural means of beating depression and anxiety? Or maybe you have a personal experience of relieving the symptoms with some form of outdoor pursuit? Either way, we'd love to hear from you - your feedback is always greatly welcomed.
Written by Jacqui Hogan