Evaluating mental health in a ‘blue’ way

We are delighted to be working with the Mental Health Foundation and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to evaluate their Blue Prescribing project.

Some 40% of all GP appointments are about mental health, yet mainstream NHS services often offer limited options to address this or simply don’t have the capacity. This makes people’s mental health problems even worse. It also adds to an estimated £105 billion a year economic and social costs, according to the Centre for Mental Health.

Being able to spend meaningful time in green and blue space – parks, countryside, waterways – is associated with better health outcomes. But this access is not equal across the UK, and even harder when you live in urban areas with fewer natural spaces nearby or fewer means to travel to such spaces.

This is where Blue Prescribing comes in. It’s a combination of a nature-based self-management programme - that will take place in the London Wetlands Centre - and an online self-care management course. As a social prescribing approach, it aims to improve health outcomes by encouraging time in nature, thus reducing psychological stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression, as well as reducing social isolation and increasing physical activity.

The online course aims to further equip participants with tools and tips that help people sustainably and independently improve their mental wellbeing through nature. The Blue Prescribing Project builds on previous work by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, which has emerged from WWT’s strategic aim to better understand the contribution wetlands make to improving health and wellbeing.

Over the next year we will be working with the Mental Health Foundation and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust to evaluate this exciting project, hearing from participants – and seeing their great photos, we hope – and engaging with the volunteers and staff supporting them. We’ll be comparing participant data before and after they have been involved with the programme, plus carrying out interviews and analysing secondary data, such as on referral pathways.

This supports our wider evaluation on mental health services, a key focus for us at M·E·L Research. For the Mental Health Foundation and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, we hope it shows the value of getting out into nature and supporting self-management of mental ill health.

Read more about these two organisations on their websites: