CNTW NHS Trust highlights role of nature in treatment during Mental Health Awareness Week

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) is promoting the importance of nature in its mental health care and treatment, during Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May 2021).

The trust is using the week to raise awareness of how enjoying nature can boost wellbeing, as well as sharing how connecting with nature plays a key role in its patient care and treatment.

Anna Foster, Trust Lead for Strategy and Sustainability at CNTW, said: “We know that not everybody is lucky enough to have access to leafy parks or a garden – but research shows us that even bringing nature into our life in small ways, like nurturing a houseplant, can give our mental health a significant boost. 

“Here at CNTW we have some beautiful green spaces at many of our hospitals, and we are working closely with staff and service users to maximise our use of these natural spaces as part of the care we provide.”

Examples of the CNTW’s work with nature includes the use of polytunnels, allotments and container gardens, with staff supporting patients to grow fresh produce as a therapeutic activity, led by the Occupational Therapy teams. Trust staff, volunteers and patients also recently planted around 1,000 trees across four hospital sites, as part of the national NHS Forest project.

Other initiatives include short nature walks, using signposted walking routes at CNTW sites, and mindfulness sessions and bird-spotting at the bird hide and feeding stations at Ferndene, the trust’s specialist children and young peoples’ inpatient centre in Prudhoe.

Bridget Lawson, Activities Coordinator at Ferndene, said: “Many of the children here have grown up in urban areas and haven’t had the opportunity to get outside and really enjoy nature. The bird hide is something that can be enjoyed by everyone, meaning they can have the benefits of learning outside while still being safe on site.”

Ken Jarrold CBE, Chair of the Council of Governors and Board of Directors at CNTW, added: “We hope that this week will inspire more people to connect with nature in new ways, noticing the positive impact that this connection can have on their mental health.”