Dorset Mind introduces outdoor therapy in North Dorset

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Residents of North Dorset are set to benefit from a range of new mental health services, as local charity Dorset Mind expands its popular Eco in Mind ecotherapy group support initiative to three new sites across the region from April 17th.

The new groups will be specifically targeted at carers, families, and friends of people living with dementia, as well as NHS and Blue Light workers, and patients at a GP surgery. In partnership with other trusted organisations, the new locations will be situated at Ferndown’s Growing Compassionate Communities initiative, Shillingstone’s Big Yellow Bus Project, and Shaftesbury’s Abbey View GP Surgery, in connection with Shaftesbury in Bloom and the Blackmore Vale surgeries.

The charity is passionate about community efforts and will be donating all produce grown at the new allotments to local food banks or communities. In addition, residents at Moretons Abbeyfield Wessex Care Home will assist the project by planting seeds and nurturing seedlings, ready for growing at the Ferndown Dementia Friendly allotments.

Ecotherapy is known to support better mental wellbeing, with gardening just twice a week improving wellbeing and relieving stress according to BBC’s Science Focus. National Mind describes ecotherapy as a “formal type of therapeutic treatment which involves doing outdoor activities in nature,” something that Dorset Mind is already delivering on their established allotments in Dorchester and Weymouth.

Dorset Mind has seen positive outcomes from its previous work on the established allotments in Dorchester and Weymouth, supporting local adults and young people. In the past year, 81 sessions were delivered, with 100% of participants maintaining or improving their mood, and 100% recommending the Eco in Mind support. Activities are based on the evidence-based Five Ways to Wellbeing, which includes getting active, connecting, taking notice, learning, and giving back.

Recent feedback from one of the charity’s regular adult participants who lives with OCD shows the positive impact that ecotherapy can have. The participant was able to sow seeds with the facilitator, which was a significant step for someone who struggles with the thought of germs. The participant’s mother commented, “It was a big step for him today. I know it’s given him a boost. He said he felt really anxious before he started, but it went away, and he’s really proud of himself. Small steps.”

Sharon Best, Eco in Mind Development Coordinator, said: “I am so pleased that Eco in Mind will reach even more people across Dorset. We’re aiming to support different people such as carers, paramedics and Blue Light workers, alongside opening adult sessions in community growing spaces and a medical centre. This expansion will demonstrate how following the Five Ways to Wellbeing outside in nature supports mental wellbeing in the community.”

Dorset Mind CEO Linda O’Sullivan echoed this sentiment, saying: “Connection and being outside in nature are proven to fundamentally improve people’s wellbeing. By collaborating with chosen partners in different locations, we can develop what we’ve learnt from several years serving Dorchester and Weymouth – and roll this impactful service out across the county, helping normalise the conversation about mental health in our communities.”

Dr Andy Mayers, Dorset Mind Patron and Principal Academic at Bournemouth University, added: “I am delighted to see the expansion of Eco in Mind. The benefits of using nature to boost mental wellbeing are clear, but this is also an opportunity to teach environmentally friendly methods to grow produce. Everyone’s a winner!”

To find out more about Eco in Mind and the support, education, and training offered by Dorset Mind, visit their website or email them directly at ecoinmind@dorsetmind.uk.

The charity’s vital mental health support cannot operate without the generosity of businesses and the local community. If you’d like to make a donation, please follow this link

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