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Green Rehabilitation

Connecting people with nature can assist in mental health treatment and recovery. The Green Rehabilitation program supports mental health service providers to embed parks and other outdoor spaces as resources for program delivery. Health service providers are encouraged to incorporate the use of parks in their service planning and delivery through building relationships with local outdoor activity providers and park agencies. Please refer below for a detailed case study of this program.


Facts

  • In Australia, it is estimated that 45% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. [1]
  • Evidence indicates that nature can make positive contributions to our health, help us recover from pre-existing stresses or problems, have an ‘immunising’ effect by protecting us from future stresses, and help us to concentrate and think more clearly[2]
  • Regular participation in physical activity improves short and long term psychosocial wellbeing by reducing feelings of stress, anxiety and depression [3]

 

For Mental Heath Service Providers

If you would like Active in Parks to connect you with your local park agencies or councils that facilitate access to outdoor spaces in your area, please contact us. We can also support you to explore ways in which you embed the use of outdoor spaces in your regular service delivery.

 


Active in Parks Barwon case study

 

The History
Green Rehabilitation was piloted in the Barwon Region of Victoria where it has been running with great success since 2010. Local mental health service providers were initially supported by Barwon Medicare Local to adopt the program. These providers now run the program independently, incorporating the philosophies of Active in Parks in their day-to-day service delivery. New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Services has recently adopted the program with an overwhelmingly positive response from local communities.

 

The Approach
In the Barwon region of Victoria, the Green Rehabilitation program was championed by Barwon Medicare Local.

Relationships were established with local mental health services to support them to incorporate the program into their services. As the concept is a relatively simple one, the program was promoted as an easy adaptation or value-add to existing programs.

Services were encouraged to seek out local park agencies and establish relationships to support local sustainable connections.

Parks and outdoor spaces were chosen for their proximity to the service and its client groups, and for the suitability to planned programs and activities.

Mental health service providers were also encouraged to source outdoor activity providers to run park-based activities for their clients. For example, the YMCA was engaged to run activities in Parks Victoria spaces, which included bike riding, beach combing, guided garden tours, tree planting and exercise sessions.

Barwon Medicare Local took a flexible approach to fitting in with other organisations’ schedules and clients’ daily routines.

Services were also encouraged to take some of their existing programs into outdoor settings, as a simple enhancement to the clients’ experience.

 

Keys to Success and Learning Points

  • Strong relationships between mental health service providers and parks agencies ensured the program was able to have a long term positive effect on the mental health of participants.
  • A mix of activity options, in different locations, ensured interest was sustained and participants were more likely to integrate physical activity into their daily routines.
  • Reinforcing the benefits of outdoor activity supported both services and participants to understand the positive effect this would have on treatment and recovery.
  • Capacity building exercises were easily added to the activities such as using public transport to access park spaces and preparing healthy meals to enjoy on activities.

 

Outcomes

  • Participants experience improved mood, social and community connectedness.
  • Participants were supported to try new activities and overcome previously held fears and misapprehensions about outdoors spaces and physical activity.
  • Mental health service providers developed sustainable connections with local outdoor activity providers.
  • Services developed extended suites of programs and services for their client groups.

 


 

Useful Links

Pretty, J., Peacock, J., Sellens, M. & Griffin, M. (2005). The mental and physical outcomes of green exercise. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 15(5), 319-337.

http://www.greenexercise.org/pdf/IJEHRGreenexercise(Prettyetal2005).pdf

http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/Physical-activity-and-depression.pdf

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/research/research-projects/research-projects/beyond-blue-to-green-the-health-benefits-of-contact-with-nature-in-a-park-context-literature-review

Pretty, J., Peacock, J., Sellens, M. & Griffin, M. (2005). The mental and physical outcomes of green exercise. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 15(5), 319-337.

http://www.greenexercise.org/pdf/IJEHR%20Green%20exercise%20(Pretty%20et%20al%202005).pdf

Maller, C., Townsend, M., Pryor, A., Brown, P. & St Leger, L. (2005). Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health promotion journal, 21(1), 45-54.

http://heapro.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/1/45.full.pdf+html

 


 

[1] http://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/research/research-projects/research-projects/beyond-blue-to-green-the-health-benefits-of-contact-with-nature-in-a-park-context-literature-review

[2] Pretty, J., Peacock, J., Sellens, M. & Griffin, M. (2005). The mental and physical outcomes of green exercise. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 15(5), 319-337.

[3] http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/Physical-activity-and-depression.pdf

 

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