“It’s the perfect medicine to feel lighter and brighter.” That’s how one woman has described her ‘green prescription’ to an Altrincham-based allotment group which is helping those struggling with anxiety and depression.
ONS figures have revealed the impact of the pandemic on mental health - more than one in five adults experiencing some form of depression and 74% of UK adults reporting a negative blow to their well-being – unhappiness, dissatisfaction with life and anxiety.
And one of Altrincham Healthcare Alliance Primary Care Network’s patients has highlighted how ‘nature on prescription’ is making a tangible difference to her anxiety.
School nurse Louise described her ‘brutal’ battle with depression during the past two decades that took her to a ‘very dark place.’ She said: “I’d become increasingly withdrawn and isolated. The pandemic increased my anxiety and I just didn’t want to get up some days.” Louise added that medication alone was not the answer to her complex condition and the support of her GP practice’s social prescribers, has enabled her to feel ‘much brighter.’
Social prescribing enables GPs to refer patients who with complex needs which affect their health and wellbeing to practical and emotional support – from counselling, to supporting with homelessness, isolation, mental health, debt issues, welfare benefits and the impact of Covid-19.
Lead Social Prescriber for Altrincham Healthcare Alliance PCN, Sarah Warman, added: “We’re supporting the Counselling and Family Centre’s allotment project which is making a huge difference to peoples’ lives. Growing vegetables and plants, transforming the plot with raised beds and a shed, is not only improving physical activity, reducing anxiety and stress and social isolation, but boosting happiness and confidence through a renewed sense of purpose.”
Debbie from Old Trafford who struggles with anxiety and depression, agrees: “Working together and witnessing the development of the allotment is wonderful. Being outside and in touch with nature – seeing things change and grow – gives you a real sense of peace and pride.”
Jim Sales, a counsellor who leads the allotment project, added: “In the past year I’ve seen not only a transformation of the plot, but of the group’s members. It’s somewhere where people can share their stories if they wish, or simply enjoy the community at work on the land. It’s a safe space to speak, support each other and form friendships. Green prescribing is a real tonic that works: nature helps to nurture.”
National Social Prescribing Week (ending 11 March 2022) celebrates the work of the social prescribers. Altrincham Healthcare Alliance PCN’s social prescribing team working across Altrincham Medical Practice, Park Medical Practice, Shay Lane Medical Centre (Drs Kelman, Cranston, Naylor, Haslam and Connell), St Johns Medical Centre and West Timperley Medical Centre, for example, has provided thousands of wellbeing calls supporting patients during the pandemic; linked patients to shopping, foodbanks, prescriptions and supported those struggling with isolation; helps those with fuel poverty issues, housing and homelessness; signposts people for exercise/arts/sports programmes; supports those with financial worries (working in partnership with Citizens Advice Trafford to develop a dedicated debt support service for patients), all those with mental health issues; those with weight issues and those requiring job advice.
For patients wanting to speak to a social prescriber, ask at your GP reception.
Posted on Friday 11th March 2022