how we can help young people

The need: In the UK, rates of anxiety and depression in young people have doubled since the 1980’s1. Research shows nearly half of all serious mental health issues manifest by age 142. Yet worryingly, an increase in both demand and need has combined with diminishing NHS funding3. For young people (aged 13-25) with wellbeing challenges, this is leading to long waiting times4. While 75% of parents whose children are unwell seek help, only 25% receive NHS support4. 

The solution: According to the Chief Medical Officer, as many as 25% of all adolescent mental health problems are preventable through early intervention and support5. In response, the NHS report Future in Mind advocates the need for a more accessible, locally organised and responsive system that prioritises prevention, early intervention and resilience6 and a strengthening of relationships between family and friends7The Wild Mind Project aims to provide mental health respite for young people who need wellbeing support. This includes young people who could benefit from preventative interventions or who are living with low self esteem, stress or anxiety.

Programmes: Evidence suggests that spending time in natural environments can improve mental health and wellbeing8. Nature reduces neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex which alleviates symptoms of depression9. It also facilitates social networking and promotes social inclusion in children and adolescents 10.  This approach is often referred to as green care or nature-based intervention.

In addition, evidence suggests that community-based arts activities can also help  stabilise young people’s mental health3. Creative activity enhances positive mood11 which increases levels of mental flexibility and creative thinking12, and facilitates cognitive processing which primes for cognitive change13 14 .

The Wild Mind Project plans to run 6-week courses to engage groups of young people who are at risk of, or are struggling with their mental health.

Our holistic approach aims to compliment areas highlighted in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health focusing on:

•purposeful creative activities
•discovery-based learning
•hands-on engagement with the natural world
•positive visual reframing (evidence-based) 

We plan to use the natural environment to deliver a range of creative activities designed around nature-based and wellbeing metaphors. By making project themes personally relevant, our goal is to engage young people to make meaningful connections to the lessons of the natural world.

Progression activities would focus on inspiring young people to take an active role in the environment’s present and future care and signpost them to next stage activities.

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  1. Nuffield Foundation (2012). Social Trends and Mental Health: Introducing the main findings. London: Nuffield Foundation.
  2. NHS Commissioning Board. (2015). Future in Mind: Promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. London: DH.

  3. All Parliamentary Group Inquiry Report (2017). The Arts for Health and Wellbeing.
  4. Green, H. et al., (2005). The mental health of children and young people in Great Britain 2004. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave.
  5. Davies, S. C., (2013). Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2012 – Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention pays. London: DH.

  6. Aitkenhead, D., (13 May 2016). Sacked Children’s Mental Health Tsar Natasha Devon: ‘I was proper angry’, The Guardian.
  7. The Children’s Society (2015). The Good Childhood Report 2015.
  8. Braubach, M. et al (2017) ‘Effects of Urban Green Space on Environmental Health, Equity and Resilience’. In: Kabisch, N., Korn, H., Stadler, J. and Bonn, A. (eds) ‘Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change Adaptation in Urban Areas’. Theory and Practice of Urban Sustainability Transitions. Springer, Cham.
  9. Bratman GN, Hamilton JP, Hahn KS, Daily GC, Gross JJ (2015) Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenualprefrontal cortex activation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:8567–8572
  10. Seeland K, Dübendorfer S, Hansmann R (2009) Making friends in Zurich’s urban forests and parks: the role of public green space for social inclusion of youths from different cultures. Forest Policy Econ 11:10–17
  11. Bell, C. E., & Robbins, S. J. (2007). Effect of art production on negative mood: A randomized control trial. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 24, 71-75.
  12. Forgas, J. (1998). Happy and mistaken? Mood effects on the fundamental attribution error. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 318-331.
  13. Isen, A. M. (2002). Missing in action in the AIM: Positive affect‟s facilitation of cognitive flexibility, innovation, and problem solving. Psychological Inquiry, 13 (1), 57-65.
  14. 14.Kuvaasa, B. & Selart, M. (2004). Effects of attribute framing on cognitive processing and evaluation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 95, 198-207. 

‘What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality”.   Plutarch