A raft of new studies conducted over the last couple of years have revealed a new form of potential therapy for treating depression and improving mental health more generally. With rates of mental health on the increase across the Western world, any tools that we can add to our arsenal when it comes to providing treatment should not be overlooked.
The conventional methods for treating the most common mental illnesses involve a combination of cognitive therapies and pharmaceutical interventions. These approaches have been shown to be very effective for a great many people, but we still only have the most basic understanding of exactly how the drugs that we use are able to alleviate symptoms. Cognitive therapies are very effective, but oftentimes a patient’s mental illness can prevent them from engaging consistently with therapy and so effectiveness is diminished.
What is Ecotherapy?
Because of this, any treatments or therapies we can implement which are easily self-administered, and which will both augment other therapies and be effective on their own, are of great value. We have known for some time that exercise is one such technique; patients who regularly exercise report much better results from other therapies, and in many cases exercise alone makes a tangible difference to a patient’s overall wellbeing.
Ecotherapy is an extension of this idea, it involves encouraging patients to get outdoors and to keep active, but it places specific emphasis on green spaces and immersing oneself in nature. This can involve something as simple as taking a walk in the park, or taking part in a bit of gardening. Ecotherapy is a fantastic alternative for patients who have limited mobility and so struggle to exercise at the level required to improve their mental health systems.
Check out examinedexistence.com for more information on non-conventional therapies for treating mental illness.
Care farms are relatively new to the United States, but they have been used throughout Europe for some time and have proven to be incredibly effective. The idea of care farms is that patients who are suffering from treatment-resistant mental illnesses can stay on these farms and take part in agricultural exercise. It is thought that the unique combination of physical exercise, proximity to animals, and immersion in an outdoor environment, all contribute to the positive impact that these places have on patient’s mental health.
Green Spaces at Prisons and Hospitals
For some time now, both of these settings have posed a major challenge to public health officials. Patients and inmates alike are more prone to developing mental health issues while incarcerated. Part of the reason for this is that these groups have little to no access to green, outdoor spaces. Therefore, increasing the availability of these spaces is an important public health measure.
The current evidence suggests that ecotherapy offers a very effective treatment option, particularly for cases of depression and anxiety which do not respond to conventional therapies. Increasing access to open, green spaces could make a significant difference to public health. By increasing access to these spaces within settings such as prisons and hospitals, we can significantly improve the mental health of some of the most vulnerable individuals in society.