Woodland walks do wonders for Redbridge’s mental health

Redbridge’s mental health trust is the first to trial a new way to embrace nature while providing treatment, Edwina Ellington writes.

Andy McGeeney, of North East London Foundation Trust, is a �psychologist with an �interest in ecotherapy, which looks at our �connection to the natural world and the environment we live in.

He takes mental health patients for two-hour weekly walks, where they appreciate wildlife, touching flowers and feeding �animals.

Mr McGeeney said the first few minutes entering woodland helps to �reduce breathing and heart rate by helping to release seretonin, a �happy hormone.

The Recorder joined eight service users and waded into Eastbrookend Park, �Dagenham, while speaking with Mr �McGeeney.

He said: “We appear to be the only trust to use this, but we want to spread the word.”

Throughout the walk, he pointed out a singing skylark, and admired flowers in full bloom.

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He added: “When I first started learning psychology, the emphasis was much more on removing the symptoms.

“This has shifted to getting to the root of the depression, or whatever the problem may be.”

Stephen Sedwell, 62, of Collier Row, told me how ecotherapy has helped ease his depression.

“Even if I didn’t feel low I would still come on these walks,” he said.

“It’s so relaxing and stepping back from the hustle and bustle of a town, appreciating woodland, is something everyone should do.”

Graham Nevitt, who has been attending the walks since last July, told me: “It is relaxing and gives you space to collect your thoughts.

“It is something I look forward to, much better than staying in doors.”

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