Award for innovative health scheme

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An innovative outdoor activity programme that helps people with long-term mental health problems has received a prestigious national award.

‘Branching Out’, which is run by NHS Tayside and Forestry Commission Scotland, has been presented with a Physical Activity and Health Alliance (PAHA) award from NHS Health Scotland.

The accolade recognises the scheme’s commitment to encouraging more people to be more active and was presented recently at the seventh national PAHA Conference in Edinburgh, attended by Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Commonwealth Games and Sport.

‘Branching Out’, which was pioneered by Forestry Commission Scotland, was designed to improve the health and well-being of adults with long-term mental health problems and is delivered with the backing of Angus Council, Dundee City Council and Perth & Kinross Council.

The project offers woodland and outdoor activities on referral for mental health service users. For each client, the service consists of approximately three hours of activities per week in a woodland setting over a 12-week period.

Activities include health walks, conservation projects, bushcraft activities and tai chi.

Hugh McNish, Central Scotland Health Adviser at Forestry Commission Scotland, said: “People with mental health problems are less likely to engage in physical activity for a number of reasons, including social isolation, low self-esteem, physical health conditions and medication side effects.

“‘Branching Out’ aims to act as a stepping stone to encourage individuals to move on to more inclusive activities within the community, whilst also acting as a crucial part of their treatment.”