A large-scale empowerment programme for tweens to young adults in the United Kingdom touts the mental health benefits of nature restoration projects.
According to the report, the experience improved the confidence and self-esteem of the young people who participated in the programme, who also showed a boost in engagement in environmental issues.
Restoring a vandalised cemetery, harvesting surplus food from farms and preparing meals for communities were among the types of projects proposed by the Our Bright Future programme.
This initiative is run by a partnership of eight organisations in the UK and led by the UK Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.
A total of 128,495 young people aged 11 to 24 years old participated in a total of 31 nature restoration and/or community integration projects, over a period between 2016 and 2021.
“Project activities included involving young people in practical environmental conservation; engaging them in vocational training and work experience; supporting them to develop their own social action campaigns around environmental issues; and helping them to start their own sustainable enterprises,” the programme organisers outlined.
And the experiment seems to have paid off.
According to the programme’s evaluation report by members of the Economic Research Service and Collingwood Environmental Planning, almost all participants (95%) felt that their self-confidence had improved, while 81% felt they could “make a difference to the environment”.
“This outcome was particularly key for young people experiencing multiple disadvantages,” noted the report authors.
“Taking part in the programme significantly contributed to improved well-being, such as improvements in mental health; ability to manage feelings; feeling more relaxed; and/or reducing eco-anxiety.”
“Being in such a supportive environment where I am making a positive change has really helped me grow and learn,” said Jade, who participated in the Green Futures project.
Nature’s benefits on mental health are increasingly being studied and confirmed by science.
Research published in December 2021 in the journal Scientific Reports showed that regular periods spent in nature were effective in fighting loneliness.
American researchers have also concluded that spending at least 10 minutes in nature helps alleviate the stress and anxiety felt by young people aged 15 to 30.
Published in February 2020, their study is based on the analysis of 14 research studies conducted in the United States, Sweden and Japan in recent years. – AFP Relaxnews