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Season 2, Episode 10:
Climate Change, Mental Health and Green-Care Models


Marina Robb

Hosted by: Marina Robb

In this episode, Marina discusses:

In Episode 10, Marina looks at the link between the Climate Crisis and Mental Health.
Balancing what can seem quite hopeless, with some information about how our health systems in the UK are responding, as well as looking at how our medical models are beginning to include social and green prescriptions as an additional or alternative route to wellness. 

Topics include

  • How the Climate Crisis could implicate self-harming
  • The biopsychosocial approach
  • Introducing Green care models and Green Prescriptions
  • Celebrating a Natural England Grant to provide funding to train NHS staff in our Certificate in Nature-based Practice

Music by Geoff Robb: www.geoffrobb.com 

Useful Information:

"The water we drink, like the air we breathe, is not a part of our body but is our body. What we do to one - to the body, to the water - we do to the other."

Natalie Diaz (2020) “The First Water Is the Body” from Postcolonial Love Poem. 

UK study of flooded households (Waite et al 2017 & Mulchandani et al 2020)

  • Waite TD, Chaintarli K, Beck C, Bone A, Amlôt R, Kovats et al (2017) The English national cohort study of flooding and health: cross-sectional analysis of mental health outcomes at year one. BMC Public Health, 129: doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-4000-2
  • Mulchandani R, Armstrong B, Beck C et al (2020) The English national cohort study of flooding and health: psychological morbidity at three years of follow up. BMC Public Health. 20:321

Our sister organisation, Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC, has been funded by Natural England to deliver the Certificate in Nature-based Practice to 20 NHS practitioners in October 2023.
To find out more, please DOWNLOAD this flyer.

If you can support our work with the NHS and other groups to provide programmes for and with hard to reach groups and train the NHS to take their practice into nature please get in touch:

Here’s a link to Circle of Life’s Rediscovery’s (CLR) Green Programmes:


*Please note CLR is actively looking for grant to fund further trainings for NHS Staff.

Health benefits of physical exercise:

The image below shows the health benefits of physical activity.

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(transcribed by AI so there maybe some small errors!)

Hearing Alan say, as a psychiatrist that are we not in a way self-harming ourselves is this a way of unconscious perhaps of actually destroying the thing that gives us life?

Hello, and welcome to the wild minds podcast for people interested in health, nature-based therapy and learning. We explore cutting edge approaches that help us improve our relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world. My name is Marina Robb. I'm an author, entrepreneur, Forest School outdoor learning and nature-based trainer and consultant, and pioneer in developing green programmes for the health service in the UK.

You're listening to Episode 10, climate change mental health and green care models. Today I'm discussing the link between the climate crisis and mental health. I wanted to balance what can seem quite hopeless, with some information about how our health systems in the UK are responding. As well as looking at how our medical models are beginning to include social and green prescriptions as an additional alternative route to wellness. 

Today, my gratitude is to the elder tree in particularly the elderberries, because this is a time when they're all ripening. They're sort of dark, red, brown berries, and I've been out there gathering them and making elderberry cordial. And also thinking about making elderberry vinegar. And I suppose the gratitude is just knowing that they're full of immunity, giving vitamins and chemicals, and they're free, and they're out near where I live, and the possibility of just making something simple that I can keep as the winter or the autumn draws in. 

And yeah, I might need it. And I just also love this idea that plants can even look like the medicine they give, for example, when you start taking the berries off the actual, what's left look like lungs. And it reminds you of the medicine that they give. So real gratitude to the elder and the berries. 

So, I want to follow on a bit with what Dr. Alan Keller's brought up last week about how the climate crisis is, in a way reflecting a bigger issue that we are self-harming ourselves as humans. Now in order for you to even get your head around that, I suppose you need to agree that the body is actually the earth. 

So, we could see the Earth as a body and in some ways by increasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and that having a whole net effect of, for example, floods, wildfires, food production issues, that we are harming that body. And I suppose we have to ask ourselves, why are we doing it? And how aware are we that that's actually happening? 

I mean, I think there's a lot in the news now about climate change and climate crisis and rising global temperatures. And it always feels very abstract, and in a way too overwhelming to even let it in on some level. And yet, as someone that's been involved in environmental issues for the last 30 years, Friends of the Earth in the late 1980s, about the rainforest at that time, I have been aware of it, it's not a new thing. But hearing Alan say, as a psychiatrist that are we not in a way self-harming ourselves, is this a way of unconscious perhaps, of actually destroying the thing that gives us life? 

And then I suppose that lends to a whole worldview and understanding that we are actually part of an ecosystem that humans are the human part of nature. And they love that idea, that idea and also that truth if you like that we are the human part of nature. So many people talk about being part of nature. But it's like we're talking about something rather than understanding that we the humans are the human part of nature, just like the dog is the dog part of nature or the elder is the elder part of nature and the river is the river part of nature. 

So we know now that everything works together, that it isn't separate parts that they are all working together in the same way that they I breathe in and I breathe out and somebody something else or somebody else will breathe in and breathe out the food I take in an AI excrete that excretion has to go somewhere. And I suppose that makes me think about what, what, what does it look like when it's working? 

Well, and sometimes we go back in time, don't we imagine maybe a bit romantically that, that humans, you know, we're working close to the Earth in 1000s of years ago, where we would collect and hunts and, you know, everything that we excreted would go back into the earth, we wouldn't have manmade chemicals, we certainly wouldn't have some way or the earth wouldn't have some way of mitigating or putting back into balance what we were doing. 

But now, what we're doing is out of balance. And it's quite distressing. So, when we think about self-harm, I looked up on Google and I looked up on the NHS website, and it said self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. And are we intentionally doing it or not? Could we actually say, Yeah, I am intentionally harming the natural world or the natural part of me? Am I intentionally doing it and I feel that's a huge one. Because immediately it's like carrying this sense of responsibility and guilt, for behaviours that I know, will increase carbon dioxide, for example. And then I also know that we're part of a much bigger system that's been in place for hundreds of years, if not 1000s of years, where we have a whole paradigm of controlling and taking from natural systems are not really understanding that there's always an exchange needed. 

So, I wonder what is the exchange? For the natural world for humans? What when we're doing it well, what does that look like in in the system? What do we bring to the system? And that's the question and something that I will be looking at, over the whole time I imagined of doing this podcast. And it kind of links as well, with this idea of our wild selves, or this factory farmed self that I feel we are, we are and what we've become, and is our factory farmed self-distressed? 

Is that why we're unable to see these links is that why it's a struggle to actually find healthier ways of living and being because we're actually quite distressed, I often think a lot of the time is, is that we can't do or behave in all the ways we'd like to, because we're literally just trying to do the next thing in front of our nose. And because we're all working, the spaces we have in between, of course, we want to go away and have holidays and look after ourselves. Because we, we don't really have the capacity to slow down again enough and actually do things that are good for our health as well. And that, again, this whole idea of climate change and climate crisis, I think we can often see it is quite abstract words about carbon dioxide and rising temperatures. 

But the tragedy is that the effect of all of this will cause and is causing in different parts of the world, a lot of damage and illness. And again, even that can feel a bit abstract sometimes. But the idea that happened in the UK, there was a study, for example, and they found that 20% of the people who were flooded, actually endured depression 28% had probable anxiety, and 38% had post-traumatic stress disorder. 

So, this link between the climate crisis and the mental health crisis is there that as things start to happen, there will potentially be more or trauma, and there's a link there. And all the more reason if we need any more reason, all the more reason to be actually looking at these limits and actually really collectively on the ground at well, as well as policy level trying to manage these levels. So, is it all about climate change? I mean, when we look at climate change, and we think is the solution all about reducing carbon dioxide? Well, yes, that's the physics isn't it, that's, that's the chemistry of understanding what's actually going on. But if you step back, and look with a different lens, then it's, it's bigger than that. 

It's about our fundamental relationship to the natural world, and to this whole ecosystem, of which we're a part of. And it also links to the way we value or don't value. Diversity, biodiversity, diversity of humans. And again, it brings up this lens and all the things we've been brought up to think about. Our relationship to the natural world is something that we can just take from and we don't have to think about giving back there apparently, is just so much endless and endless availability that we don't have to give back. 

And, and it's showing that actually, we do that there is this very, very fundamental dynamic that exists. And I'm really sorry, folks, if I'm just saying everything that you know, but I, I feel like there's something that needs to normalise about this fundamental understanding about this reciprocal relationship with the living world, and that we have an absolute place within that. And that all our systems need to be thinking about that. So that's quite distressing, you know, to think about that we're self-harming ourselves through the way we are with the planet. And, you know, self-harming can be ways of expressing emotional distress, trying to feel in control. It can be about punishing ourselves relieving tension. 

And all that sounds to me, like stuff within our whole mental health arena, if you like its stuff that is going on within the mental health arena is how we manage our emotional distress, how we manage our pressure, how we manage family arguments, relationships, what do we do? Do we go and go and have go and party? Do we go and drink? Do we go and shout and get violent? Do we? How do we how are we looking after ourselves? And is the knock-on effect of those decisions, having wider repercussions in our families and our societies, as well as the natural world. 

So what does wellness look like I can't talk and talk and not think about what wellness looks at looks like and I'm thinking about the model that I started to look at in a brief way, in episode one and two, and we start to see human development and human life as composing of many facets, some of which I started to talk about, like the physical side of being human, the emotional side of being human, the rational thinking mental side of being human and the spiritual side of being human. And how, as we nourish and feed those different aspects or develop those different aspects within ourselves, we become more whole. 

And I will be going into that further in the seasons that follow, if not later on in this season, because I do think looking at a model of what it is to be human and how development takes place and how we end up actually, self-harming ourselves or harming ourselves. It doesn't have to be, you know, cutting ourselves which is, which is a horrible thing that so many people feel they need to do to actually just exist. But I'm talking about all the things that we do that that in a way reflect what's going on what what's going on inside ourselves reflects on how we're how we're actually behaving and operating in all you know many lives around us but also in the wider world. 

So, wellness has to be looking at how we are developing and managing those different aspects of ourselves and the What we often talk about in the health sector is we start with what's going on now, which is really exciting, is the development of green prescriptions and social prescriptions.

And it's something that I am really involved in, within my work, particularly within my work with as running an organisation called Circle of Life. rediscovery, which is a community community interest company that some of you out there know about already, which is a gets funding to run green programmes, in partnership with the NHS and different groups that are referred to through the NHS. And we've been doing that for about coming up to 20 years, actually. But thinking about this approach, it's often called, we can often see us as humans is this bio psycho social approach. And, and when I unpack that, what that means is that we start to consider both the biological aspects of being human, the psychological aspects of being human, and the social factors and how all these things interact, to help us understand health, wellness, and also illness and how we out there can be delivering health care in a different way. And as you also all know, that I'm just as excited and interested in how we deliver education as well as how we deliver health.

And what's really interesting having been in this world for a while is that it's, it's more common now to hear things like social prescribing, or green prescribing. And if you haven't heard about that, Google it, and you'll see what might come up because what what's being understood more and more is that to be well, you need to also be thinking about your social factors. And I would say also your environmental factors as well. So when you go to a doctor, and you're, you're not feeling well, nowadays in the UK, and it will be increasing more and more over the next five to 10 years, you might be given a Green Prescription and what that will mean, and that won't take the place of any biological medical things that you might need to have.

But it might also be saying, you know, what, actually, you're depressed or you're anxious, and taking part in something that you might find meaningful, that might actually reduce your isolation, that might actually help you to be more physical could really help you. So it's about the medical model, de medicalizing itself a little bit and actually saying, We know now, that when we support people in the social world, in the society going out and doing things, being able to meet their needs in different ways, that actually wellness increases, we also know that being physical is so wealthy, so good for you, you know, and obviously, for me, as somebody that works outdoors, most of the time, you can't not really be physical when you're outdoors. And that doesn't mean going on a run and being ultra fit, it means that you're moving around, you're managing different terrains, just simply by walking over bumpy ground, for example, or you're using your hands in different ways, because maybe you're taking part in some crafts.

Or you're simply breathing in cleaner air because you're not walking in heavily polluted streets, you know, and we know that big things like even dementia can decrease when your physical, or your cardiovascular system can be improved by being physical. And there's a lot of research around that. So wellness is more than just the biological it, we need to be attending to our psychological side, our physical side, our social sides. And as I said, also this idea of our spiritual or the part of us that that that is connected to something that is bigger than ourselves. And again, we'll have all different stories or narratives as to what that might mean for us. We don't need to be prescriptive as to what that might mean. And when we start to have the opportunity to meet those needs, or then we can increase our wellness. So look up green prescriptions, look up. So prescription start finding out a little bit more about that, because it's, it's increasing. And there's lots of research to show how good it is for our well being. And again, sitting underneath that, particularly with green prescriptions is, is for me helping and supporting a health system that acknowledges that wellness is also about our relationship to others in the community, as well as others, the wider environment.

So I'm quite excited actually, because we as an organisation have just been funded by Natural England to run the first ever training with NHS staff so that they can build the skills and practice to take their groups that they work with, or individuals that work with outdoors. So it's not that they won't be using the skills that they have already within their practice, whether they're mental health nurses or occupational therapists, or clinical psychologists or psychiatrists. But it's about understanding that taking their practice into another setting, can be extremely beneficial Fisher. And I wonder if folks out there, imagine that perhaps, instead of going to see a GP, indoors, although that doesn't make sense in so many ways, you might, in the future, be seeing them outdoors. 

Or you might actually be given a prescription or an opportunity to go and join in, in some club without having to pay or find out about some walking opportunities in your local community. And in that, hopefully, the idea is that we can meet new people have more positive relationships, and also get the opportunity to move and be physical. And in some of the green programmes anyway, you'll be able to contribute with some conservation activities, perhaps planting trees, making bird boxes, perhaps just actually being part of dedicating an area where humans don't go into so that the Wilder world can have places where we're not interrupting their everyday lives as well. For me, imagining being young person, I really think it's important that we have spaces that young people can go to, that aren't always going indoors, into a building and having to perhaps share issues that they've got in that in that way in that setting. 

I know, having worked with young people in the outdoors in a therapeutic setting, that when you actually provide something that they can do, for example, making a fire or using some wood to craft or to whittle or even space to move around. And you are alongside them and you have those conversations with them. It's a setting that can really enable conversations to happen. And at the same time experiences that are positive, and that feel good. So, there's kind of like a double, a double win in that way that when we take some of our health practice into the outdoors, they actually feel better, less stress, because the natural world reduces cortisol. 

And at the same time, it's a less intense direct one to one experience, there's space for children to pause, take time, maybe fiddle with a spade or use clay while talking. And I really, really think that these ideas make a lot of sense. So, stay tuned, because we're going to be looking at more of this stuff, as I said in future seasons. And if you want to know more, then just look at the show notes. 

And there'll be some links in that. And of course, this isn't just about the health service as well. This is also about the education system and providing opportunities for young people to spend time outdoors in an experiential, relational way. playing outdoors and actually having a direct, self-chosen experience, doing things they might want to do in a natural setting. 

And in that building those relationships with different parts of the natural world and going full circle back to this idea of the Mental Health Crisis being linked to the climate crisis and this idea of self-harming, that there are levers everywhere that we need to be turning if you like, we need to be as a society having more and more opportunities to value the natural world, remembering that we're the human part of the natural world, and we can't have that if we don't have direct experience of that, we need to be considering different aspects of what it is to be human, the part of us that actually isn't so nice to ourselves, and perhaps does harm ourselves and how maybe we're, as we do this to ourselves, we're also doing it to our environments, both our family environments and our natural environments. 

And when we think about the climate crisis and climate change, and perhaps climate education, something that I'm going to come back to, that we're not just thinking about instrumental reduction in carbon emissions, which now has to happen and is likely to happen much more on a corporate governmental level that it is easily going to happen in our everyday lives, although we can do small things, that we're also going to be looking at our relationship and to the natural world and supporting biodiversity may be having wild gardens, understanding this link and starting to value this eco-systemic approach to all these different fields. 

Join me next week when you'll meet Dr. Max Hope, Director of Rewilding Education, a facilitator, educator, researcher, activist and writer, as our country's children returned to school, we'll be talking about rewilding education, what it means to be self-willed, and the importance of power sharing to facilitate change. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of The Wild minds podcast. If you enjoyed it and want to help support this podcast, please subscribe, share and leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts. Your review will help others find the show.

To stay updated with The Wild Minds Podcast and get all the behind-the-scenes content. You can visit the www.outdoorteacher.com or follow me on Facebook at theoutdoorteacherUK and LinkedIn, Marina Robb.

The music was written and performed by Geoff Robb. See you next week. Same time, same place