Woodlands for Health is a nature-based intervention programme focused on green exercise in a forest setting.
The voluntary programme has been developed specifically for those with mental health difficulties. It is supported by medical professionals complementing a positive mental health approach which is central to the role of Mental Health Ireland.
In 2012 the first Wicklow programme was initiated by Charlie Burke of Coillte in partnership with the HSE, Mental Health Ireland, Wicklow Mental Health Association and Wicklow Sports Partnership. Currently, there are over almost a dozen counties conducting the programme with over nationwide interest in coordinating the programme in 2020 and beyond.
The Woodlands for Health Evaluation Report 2020 presents the findings of preliminary research on the Woodlands for Health project, which involves a nature-based intervention for mental health and well-being in Coillte forests.
The findings indicated an improvement in well-being (on average 31%) and nature connectedness (on average 11%). These findings merit further systematic research and provide tentative support for the programme.
Additional co-benefits for sustainability, enhanced environmental concern and potential increases in pro-environmental behaviour should be considered in future studies.
Overall, the findings suggest positive impacts upon participants with potential significant reciprocal benefits for those engaged in coordinating the programme on-site.
With special thanks to all participants in the programme, and Charlie Burke (Coillte: Woodlands For Health)-Project Initiator; Ellen Moran MA (GO GREEN, UL-analysis of findings and graphics; Emer O’Leary PhD (Get Ireland Walking)-survey design, and staff in Local Sport Partnerships, Mental Health Services and Mental Health Ireland Development officers who facilitated the programme.
Read the Woodlands for Health Evaluation Report 2020 here