Nature’s remedy: doctors in Shetland give ‘green prescriptions’
This is a project that looks to improve health and wellbeing using only what is freely available on our doorsteps, connecting people to nature in a bid to overcome growing mental health problems and the causes behind many long-term conditions.
Nature prescribing was first dreamed up by Karen MacKelvie, a community engagement officer for RSPB Shetland, who lives and works on the islands.
‘I also work as a counsellor at Women’s Aid, and I do therapy on the beaches and I know how restorative and helpful it can be,’ says Ms MacKelvie, at her traditional white stone house, overlooking a seemingly endless, shimmering, sea loch.
‘When we did the research, the evidence for nature working in health and wellbeing was overwhelming. It’s not just about exercise outdoors, which of course helps, but the connection is even more important.’
Ms MacKelvie’s idea quickly became reality in a pilot project last year – before being rolled out more widely after being deemed a success. The RSPB produced a leaflet now stocked in GP surgeries across the islands.
The philosophy behind the RSPB approach is not just about fresh air and exercise – it’s about developing a relationship with the nature and wildlife being experienced. Evidence from projects in the UK suggests a relationship between connection and engagement with nature and improved health and wellbeing.