Youth mental health boosted by nature-related projects, report says

Young people’s mental health, self-confidence and employability have been boosted by taking part in nature projects across the UK, according to a report on a £33million scheme.

More than 128,000 people between the ages of 11 and 24 have taken part in the Our Bright Future program. The 31 projects have improved 3,000 community spaces and created 350 nature-rich areas, ranging from a vandalized graveyard in Hull to a redeveloped quarry in County Down. The program was run by the Wildlife Trusts and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

Almost all participants (95%) felt their confidence had improved by participating, while 86% said it had improved their mental health. Two-thirds said their appreciation of the natural world and their belief that they could make a difference in their local environment had increased significantly.

The community garden at St Hilda’s Church in Hull had long been covered in rubbish and was a hotbed of anti-social behaviour. It is now a wildlife area with flowers to attract butterflies and a pond for amphibians. Seeds of native wildflowers and grasses from a nearby nature reserve have been used to restore Aughrim Quarry in County Down.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said: “Our natural world is the foundation of our society, but it is under great pressure.

“This report proves how important it is to give young people hands-on experience in learning about nature and the climate. We must encourage a new generation of green leaders to find solutions to the greatest environmental challenges of our time. »

James Stubbs took part at the age of 19 in the One Planet Pioneers project in Middlesbrough, which developed the skills of young people through environmental projects. He said of the program: “It gave me the chance to start a career in a sector that I have always been passionate about.

Young people carrying crates of apples
Almost all of the young people surveyed said their mental health had improved after being in nature. Photo: Wildlife Trusts

“Having spent 19 out of 24 months unemployed since leaving college, this is something I never thought would happen.”

Stubbs now works as a project officer for Sustrans, promoting cycling.

The Our Bright Future program has enabled almost 9,000 young people to acquire qualifications and 1,600 to acquire work experience. The report, produced by evaluators from the Economic Research Service and Collingwood Environmental Planning, also found that more than 200 young entrepreneurs had started businesses or social enterprises, including one selling jewelry made from items found during the cleaning up trash on the beaches.

Spending time in woods, wetlands, and other natural spaces has been shown to improve mental health and reduce loneliness in cities. Another recent study found that a two-hour weekly “dose” of nature significantly improved health and well-being.

Liz Truss’ government has come under fire from leading nature and campaign organizations nationwide for its intention to cut regulations that protect the environment.

Mya-Rose Craig, Founder of Black2Nature and Ambassador of Wildlife Trusts, said: “Access to nature has a profound effect not only on young people’s environmental awareness, but also on their physical and mental well-being. I hope others recognize that there is a huge appetite among young people to work towards a better future for all of us.

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