18 May 2020

Argyll mental health project opens new doors during lockdown

A mental health project in Argyllshire has transformed its operations during the COVID-19 outbreak to continue helping its participants.

The Argyll and the Isles Coast and Countryside Trust (ACT) delivers Branching Out Argyll and Moving On, two woodland-based programmes of outdoor activities, to help participants overcome mental health issues caused by loneliness, isolation, and stigma.

With the current COVID-19 lockdown in force, participants have been unable to meet outside and carry on its activities which normally involved bush craft, building shelters, conservation and gentle exercise.

Instead, ACT has joined forces with Mid Argyll Community Learning, Jean's Bothy and the local NHS Community Mental Health Teams to transform their work. Participants will now receive weekly phonecalls, a multitude of activity packs and a safe online group has been set up to keep everyone in touch.

Developed by Scottish Forestry, Branching Out is a national partnership programme between NHS, Scottish Forestry and community organisations providing woodland activities on referral from mental health services. 

Speaking at the start of Mental Health Week which runs 18-24 May, Elaine Jamieson of Scottish Forestry said:

“This is really good news, especially for people who are suffering mental health issues during this challenging time. Branching Out is a lifeline for many people so it is great to hear that ACT and other mental health groups are joining together to keep activities going for participants.”

The Argyll project is made possible through a network of funders including National Lottery’s Community Fund, Argyll & Bute Council and the Transforming Self-Management Fund.

The new way of working through lockdown has also allowed ACT to reach people who may not have participated in the woodland based activities. Participants are getting a little taste of outdoor and practical activities through the new packs.

The activity packs have been so popular that even when the outdoor activities resume after lockdown, some people may still receive continued mental health support through the new way of working.

Julie Young, ACT Development Manager added:

“We are now working on sending out more activities including woodworking, windowsill growing, recycling, seeds and composting, recipes, exercise sheets and guides on spotting local wildlife.

“We’ve hosted successful local zoom meetings and set up a private Facebook group to help keep us all together and in touch throughout COVID-19.

“It has been a team effort by all the organisations involved. We all share a common goal to keep providing the best mental health assistance we can for our participants."