Rewild and Recover

Many people talk about the healing power of nature, its ability to take us out of the minute to minute demands and stresses of life and into a calmer, simpler place. Over the last ten years, Trees for Life has worked with other charities to enable groups of people to experience this healing power.

One of the first of these groups was HARP, a charity from Southend which provides support for homeless people in their local area. Being homeless is every bit as challenging emotionally as it is physically and spending time with Trees for Life provides an opportunity to break the cycle of strain and anxiety. As one early participant commented: ‘My expectation of a week away from Southend in the remote destination of the Highlands was one where I would have the opportunity to reflect on my life without distraction and to make plans to re-build my future. The week exceeded my expectations in every respect, and I couldn’t have dreamt of the beauty or tranquillity of the surroundings, nor how beneficial it would be in my recovery. The week will forever stay in my memory, as will the experiences I shared with new-found friends.’

We have learnt from our partnerships with these groups that physical work like planting trees in remote parts of the Highlands takes people out of their comfort zones, but in a supported way. The group atmosphere we create provides the support and friendships that help people to explore their emotions and rebuild self-belief in new, often life changing ways. People are able to then use their experiences of rewilding to face the difficulties in their lives. As one of our volunteers said last year: ‘I just thought I’d write and thank you for last week in Glen Affric. For me it wasn’t a holiday, it was emergency 1st aid on a completely crushed and flattened brain. I arrived virtually dysfunctional and at a dead stop but thanks to the magic of Glen Affric (my adopted new home), and with the assistance of the two amazing people who ran it and a group that by the end of the week really did feel like family, I have managed to get home in a functional state and standing upright again. I am afraid I’m in a very poor state of mind at the moment and not really coping with life at all but at least I’m back in a position where I can try and do something about it.’

As well as the established partners we have been working with for years – HARP and Greenbuds (The Dundee Association for Mental Health) – we are also recently started working with refugee group the Govan Community Project, and are keen to develop relationships with other mental health charities. We aim to grow this aspect of our work over the years to come.