By Dan Walsh
Woodlands for Health is an Eco-Therapy programme of forest-based activities prescribed by medical professionals, which involves social inclusion of people who experience severe mental health difficulties. Frank Feighan, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, visited the Sports Active Wexford Woodlands for Health Programme based in Tintern Abbey last Monday.
The County Wexford Intervention, held in Tintern Woods, was led by Pat Caulfield and Kate O’Brien, Wexford Walking Trails volunteer leaders, and has been funded over the past three years through Healthy Ireland and Get Ireland Walking.
The intervention aims to provide an opportunity for individuals with a mental health referral to walk in a nature-based environment, following the government’s Covid-19 protocols. While an outcome of the intervention is to improve participant well-being, this encompasses many factors including improved quality of life, improved sleep, enhanced physical fitness, social functioning, personal confidence, improved awareness. The programme aims to act as a complement to any clinical interventions or recommendations from an individual’s health care team.
Dr Denise Rogers, Senior Clinical Psychologist with HSE Waterford Wexford Mental Health Services said: “There has never been a more important time for everyone to get up, get dressed and get moving, especially for those with pre-existing psychological and/or physical health challenges. We are immensely proud of our relationship with Sport Active Wexford who work tirelessly with us to both maintain and find new and inclusive ways for people to be active, in adherence to COVID 19 guidance at all times.
“We were aware of the evidence-based Woodlands for Health programme and were delighted when Fran Ronan (Sports Coordinator) facilitated our engagement with the programme, which has proven immensely successful for our client group. The group looks forward to and enjoys the weekly walk in Tintern. We have noticed positive effects including improved mood and physical ability,” concluded Dr Rogers.