By cassfoundation, Dec 3 2018 09:00AM
Good clinical care accounts for only 20% of what makes us healthy. The main factors that determine good health are healthy behaviours, socio-economic factors and our environment.
The Cass Foundation’s motto of ‘healthy places, healthy lives’ fits comfortably into this area of health and wellbeing. Our projects are aimed at improving health by a duel approach, of improving the environment and offering nature-based activities that link people to their local green space, building both personal and community resilience.
In Liverpool, over 66,000 people have a mental health condition, with depression, anxiety and serious mental illness depriving many of a good quality of life. Deprivation contributes considerably to poor mental health. For individuals and their families, it can mean disrupted lives, limited life opportunities, financial hardship, poor education and employment prospects and social isolation.
One of the signature activities developed by The Cass Foundation is the Nature’s Therapy program. Our unique approach evolved in response to the need for non-clinical activities aimed at improving mental health for adults. There is a body of supportive evidence to connect outdoor physical activities and proximity to nature with improved mental health. Our Nature’s Therapy sessions usually run for twelve consecutive weekly sessions, during which time we cover a variety of task based and mindfulness exercises, including bush craft activities such as making fires, collecting wood, outdoor cooking, foraging, nature identification as well as sharing ecotherapy and mindfulness techniques; slowing down, isolating the senses, welcoming stillness.
Throughout the process of reaching small, achievable goals, which include personal tasks such as whittling a spoon, or as a group such as preparing a communal meal, an unforced sociability develops between the participants and before long a strong friendship group is formed, and participants report notable personal, self-recognised achievements and personal improvements.
Case Study 2
‘A’ was a successful teacher when she suddenly became disabled. She rehabilitated to independent living when she was burgled whilst in her home. After relocating and three years of isolation, depression and anxiety she felt strong enough, with supportive encouragement, to join our ‘Nature’s Therapy’ group. Within weeks she had rediscovered her voice, began developing trust and became receptive to signposting to other wheelchair accessible activities such as Archery, Boccia, the theatre etc. ‘A’ regained her spirit and confidence and within 18 months, despite her struggles and physical challenges, she has achieved her ambition of becoming a wonderful foster carer.
The activities we offer vary in response to the needs and requirements within the different areas where we work as well as proximity to accessible greenspace. Whether it is Therapeutic Horticulture, Nordic walking, Outdoor volunteering, Nature Walks, Drumming in Nature or Nature’s Therapy, our primary focus is getting participants outdoors and letting the power of our natural world take effect. For many, quality time spent outdoors does not feature in their daily routine, but a common thread of feedback for all our participants is that they feel so much better for being outside, especially when the weather is bad.
Social prescribing, sometimes referred to as community referral, is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical support.
Social prescribing is designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs, and many schemes are focussed on improving mental health and physical well-being. Those who could benefit from social prescribing schemes include people with mild or long-term mental health problems, vulnerable groups, people who are socially isolated, and those who frequently attend either primary or secondary health care.
For many years we have been engaging with local GP services and NHS centres, to promote our services and find ways to encourage a form of referral onto our courses and activities. We have been astounded by the positive benefits that our sessions have had on individual’s lives and health. We have worked closely with local partners to develop an evidence base to reflect these benefits, especially through a joint program managed by Mersey Forest, called Nature4Health, where The Cass Foundation was a key delivery partner and contributed significantly toward the final outcomes of the report
Over this year we have been working closely with Brownlow Health to develop this social model of health. On the 27th June 2018 we organised a practical ‘Away Day’ with 160 of the Brownlow Health Practice staff to highlight the potential positive impact of social prescribing on their patients and their organisation. We had an uplifting and practical afternoon on one of the hottest days of the year, with talks and presentations by members of The Cass Foundation and Clare Mahoney from Liverpool CCG on the various positive benefits of the activities.
This was followed by a practical for the staff, with the choice of our typical menu of mindfulness based activities: ‘Drumming in Nature’, ‘Outdoor Yoga’, a ‘Nature Walk and Talk’, ‘Chi Gung’ or ‘Nature’s Therapy’; the idea being for all staff to experience a flavour of the activities that they would be promoting to patients.
It was a positive day and we are looking forward to further collaborative developments. We are contributors for the Liverpool Provider Alliance Leadership Group and are feeling hopeful about imminent positive change for improved health and wellbeing in the Liverpool area.
Our next outdoor volunteering session in Dam Woods, with Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Friends of Croxteth Green Space will be on Saturday 19th January. Please note, we will not be having another session before Christmas but please get along to Dam Woods and enjoy the new network of paths that we have been working on, explore the area and appreciate all the time, hard work (and fun times) that have been put in by the volunteers.
What we've been up to
We've had a busy year! Since April 2017 our work has covered
236 Events and activity sessions
2465 engagements through events and activities
5304 hours of physical activity by participants and attendees at our events and activities
189 course participants via our Pathways to Active Lives project
502 Engagements through Pathways to Active Lives project including course participants, attendees at one off events and taster sessions.
Participants attending each of the five Pathways to Active Lives courses which were monitored using IPAQ and WEMWBS tools demonstrated improved wellbeing, increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behaviour
122 Course Sessions (Therapeutic Gardening, Nordic Walking and Health Walks) were delivered at Mersey Care Life Rooms
1234 attendances at Mersey Care Life Room Sessions
>65 course participants at Mersey Care Life Room Sessions
Using Recognised monitoring tools (IPAQ and WEMWBS), all of our courses at Life Rooms and during the Pathways to Active Lives project demonstrated:
o Improved well-being
o Increased daily physical activity
o Reduced sedentary behaviour
This year we were supported by:
22 Regular and event volunteers
118 Volunteer contributions
246 hours of volunteer time
With this in view, we are looking forward to \new projects in 2019.Until then, we wish you a wonderful December. We hope you will make time to get outdoors, whatever the weather, to enjoy the crisp night skies, the winter wonders and remember to feed the birds.