The cost of mental health problems to the economy in England is estimated to be £105 billion a year.
Centre for Mental Health (2011), The Economic and Social Costs of Mental Health Problems in 2009/10.
Greenpath Ventures (GV) works with many professionals and organisations, who simply “get it!”; being outside and involved with nature is good for both your mental and physical health. Here’s some further information to confirm it! MIND Ecotherapy.
However, it’s also very sad to say, the idea of offering people with mental health issues the opportunity to undertake bushcraft is not meet with enthusiasm on all sides! When we first started out and people asked what the individuals would be doing on our bushcraft days, and I explained; “firelighting, foraging, learning to use cutting tools, archery and maybe even shooting”, quite a few professionals were very skeptical and sometimes even hostile.
Here’s an example of some of the things that were said to me:
- “The activities are too dangerous for them; you can’t let mental patients use knives and fire”
- “They have a history of arson, so don’t show them how to start fires”
- “We (as in the clinical staff) are responsible for them, they can’t come, they may have an accident”
- “We (as in the clinical staff) have to look after them and ensure they are safe”
- “They self harm, so shouldn’t be shown how to use knives or axes”
- “They have mental health problems, what would happen if people heard they had been shooting airguns?”
Now, I do understand some of the concerns and the reasoning behind some of these statements; I tried to explain that everything we did was under supervision and that we carried out risk assessments for every session, but sadly in the minds of some professionals, clients with mental health issues could not be trusted enough to attend our courses.
This smacks to me of sheer blatant discrimination against adults who actually have “mental capacity”!
The MCA says:
- Everyone has the right to make his or her own decisions. Health and care professionals should always assume an individual has the capacity to make a decision themselves, unless it is proved otherwise through a capacity assessment.
- Individuals must be given help to make a decision themselves. This might include, for example, providing the person with information in a format that is easier for them to understand.
- Just because someone makes what those caring for them consider to be an “unwise” decision, they should not be treated as lacking the capacity to make that decision. Everyone has the right to make their own life choices, where they have the capacity to do so.
The clients wanted to come, we were having fantastic feedback and the outcomes were exactly what clinicians would want. People were saying they felt responsible and trusted, it was improving their confidence & self-esteem and their mental health was improving. Regularly, people were saying our courses should be offered by the NHS as they were helping so much. How awful, that regardless of all these positives, people were often being denied the opportunity to attend because of the preconceived ideas of some health care professionals. So much for all the hyperbole of “client led services”.
This also smacks, to me, of encouraging “learnt helplessness”; when clients were on our courses professionals would continue to treat them as incapable of looking after themselves, telling them to put their jackets on because it was raining. How was this approach helping people learn to become more responsible for themselves? People were often being treated as helpless and this is itself disempowering. Very simply; we treated people like adults and they responded as adults.
Nevertheless, GV was on a role! Including going into schools we were working with over 1,000 people per year, everything was going well. We had been members of ATTEND, from our very beginning and we were invited to be a showcase project at their AGM at Westminster Palace, London.
Funders and partners were describing our charity as “visionary” and “inspirational”.
Unfortunately, I was about to get some bad news which would dramatically affect GV.
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