Wild Ways Well
WWW. Three initials which together enjoy near universal understanding. Yet the World Wide Web isn’t the only thing laying claim to those initials. WWW might equally well stand for Wild Ways Well, which is a project that looks to help people who are at risk of developing a mental health condition.
The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) have joined forces with Cumbernauld Living Landscape (CLL) in an urban restoration project which looks to reinforce and reconnect the town's green spaces for the benefit of people and wildlife. Wild Ways Well is a marvellous people focussed strand of this project.
Wild Ways Well is new, but owes much to a popular fore-runner — Five Ways to Wellbeing — which was produced by the New Economics Foundation and identified five clear actions that would improve personal wellbeing. The ‘five actions’ were to connect, be active, take notice, keep learning, and to give. The thread that draws this together is the acceptance that being outdoors, spending time with nature and meeting other people makes us all feel better about ourselves.
TCV have been working closely with CLL who are responsible for the strategic management of green infrastructure in and around Cumbernauld. For the Wild Ways Well project the highly- respected mental health charity ‘SAMH’ (Scottish Association for Mental Health) stepped in too, and played a key role in locally testing a pilot phase in Cumbernauld in 2016*.
The report was able to show that Wild Ways Well was a sound idea. “By bringing people together — to enjoy and develop an awareness of local nature and wildlife, building on individual and community assets — Wild Ways Well creates and maintains positive social relationships; building physical and psychological strength and resilience with benefits for individuals and the whole community. By integrating physical and mental health, particularly for those who are unaware of the need to or reluctant to increase activity levels; Wild Ways Well promotes purpose and participation enabling people to build self-esteem and confidence levels. “
Wild Ways Well has the potential to reduce costs for Healthcare services, and provide a mechanism to establish greater community cohesion. The project will directly support the reduction of health inequalities by targeting recognised ‘at risk’ groups in disadvantaged areas of Cumbernauld with the provision of a non-threatening and stigma-free intervention.
TCV are now rolling Wild Ways Well out across the wider CLL area.
The whole concept of the value of access to greenspace seems to be gaining momentum. Recently the Glasgow Centre for Population Health created an indicator for measuring children’s access to greenspace in Glasgow. A recent blog demonstrated the importance of outdoor play for children’s healthy development but also the necessity of measuring under 16’s access to greenspace. There is a case to be made for early intervention and preventative action when it comes to accessing good greenspaces and ensuring a healthy environment plays a role in a healthier society long-term.
Certainly the Wild Ways Well work takes that approach. In their recent Cumbernauld activities they had a session focussed on looking woodlands. Identifying trees was high on the agenda, but equally important was getting out into the open and meeting other people.
It’s well known that being outdoors, in nature, makes people feel better. Taking groups of people suffering from, or at risk of, mental health problems out among the trees and greenspaces can change lives.
Wild Ways Well has a double pronged approach. Groups are often ‘closed’ in that a referral from another organisation is part of the process and the commitment is usually to a 12 week programme. But the project caters equally for those who want to take part as individuals. As an individual bookings are required to ensure that numbers are manageable and a basis level of physical fitness and some ‘Scottish’ weather proof clothing are essential. Sessions are free.
So well done to TCV and Cumbernauld Living Landscapes in harnessing the value of nature and greenspaces for the benefit of people. Getting out, getting into nature and getting help adds up to a winning formula.
* - The 2016 pilot phase brought together TCV, SAMH and the NHS. The report was collated with the assistance of University of Edinburgh and TCV’s own in-house reporting team.