Associate feature: Connecting with nature to boost youth mental health

Written by Francesca Osowska on 21 May 2018 in Comment

Francesca Osowska, CEO of Scottish Natural Heritage, on the benefits of green spaces to mental health

Francesca Osowska - image credit: SNH

By the time they’re 16, roughly three children in every classroom in Scotland will have experienced a mental health problem. In recent years there have been dramatic increases in young people reporting psychological health complaints - feeling low, irritable, nervous, dizzy, and having sleep difficulties.

In this, the Year of Young People, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is playing its part to tackle the trend. Getting active in nature can boost physical and mental well-being. Increasingly, we are also understanding the value of ‘mindfulness’ – of stopping and taking notice of your surroundings – whether that’s watching boats on the Clyde,  listening to swifts chatter overhead on a summer evening or even just ‘cloudwatching’.

Those who live in less affluent circumstances can be more at risk of developing mental health problems. That’s why we’re currently channeling £37.5m of investment through a Green Infrastructure Fund to deliver projects across Scotland which improve or create urban green space close to areas of multiple deprivation, and work with others to deliver better places and environments for people living in our towns and cities.

Our Learning in Local Greenspace initiative aims to work with 100 schools in the 20 per cent most disadvantaged areas to increase use of greenspace to achieve health and well-being benefits as well as increase attainment levels.

Mental health charity SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) plays a key role in raising awareness of mental health problems in Scotland and has worked in partnership with us, notably at its Redhall Walled Garden project in south Edinburgh. By taking a therapeutic horticultural approach, Redhall helps people improve their health and wellbeing, through engagement in employability, volunteering and educational opportunities; and by building social relationships within their local community.

There’s still much to be done, and SNH is working to make a positive difference to the lives of young people and the generations to come.

Francesca Osowska is CEO of Scottish Natural Heritage. This piece was sponsored by SNH.

Francesca Osowska is raising funds and awareness for SAMH through #Cycle for Nature:           

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