Branching Out is an innovative development for adults who use mental health services in Scotland. For each client, the service consists of around three hours of activities per week in a woodland setting, over 12 weeks.
Activities are adapted to suit the client group, site and time of year, and generally include:
- physical activity e.g. health walks and tai chi;
- conservation activities e.g. rhododendron clearance and bird box construction;
- bushcraft, e.g. fire lighting and shelter building; and
- environmental art e.g. photography and willow sculptures.
On completion of the course there's an awards ceremony where clients receive certificates of completion, tool handling and achievement (e.g. The John Muir Award where applicable), and are signposted on to community-based leisure, volunteer and training opportunities.
The programme is currently available in nine NHS board areas: Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lothian, Forth Valley, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Borders, Tayside, Fife and Highland.
The video below outlines the project's work:
Branching Out training and resources
To ensure consistency of the Branching Out model across Central Scotland, a training and accreditation programme has been developed for leaders. The programme was created following a full training needs analysis; working with current and prospective Branching Out leaders to evaluate training requirements.
The course content was written by green exercise and health training consultants in collaboration with SF staff, healthcare organisations (NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Association for Mental Health) and with reference to other similar courses in Australia and Canada. Training is available for experienced staff working in the environmental sector. Previous trainees have included local authority ranger teams and environmental charity staff. The course is endorsed by the Institute for Outdoor Learning. We have also developed a two day course for mental health practitioners who support their clients on Branching Out and wish to build their confidence in the outdoor skills required for the programme.
Branching Out has won five awards:
- The UKPHA Michael Varnam Health, Humanity and Environment Award 2010.
- 'Best Green Healthcare Provider' at the Scottish Green Awards 2010
- The RSPB Nature of Scotland 'Innovation' award 2012
- The Physical Activity & Health Alliance Awards (PAHA) 2014 under the NHS Scotland category
- The Scottish Green Apple Award 2014 for Environmental Best Practice for the Branching Out Leaders course
Branching Out was originally developed as a result of a partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow & Clyde Valley Green Network Partnership, Glasgow Centre for Population Health and Glasgow City Council.
Details of how the project was set up: Branching Out - Greenspace on referral (PDF 497KB)
The 2016 evaluation of Branching Out:
- Branching Out Evaluation 2016 - executive summary (PDF 417KB)
- Branching Out Evaluation 2016 - full report (PDF 811KB)
Key evaluation results
The key results of the evaluation were:
- low attrition rates in a hard to reach population;
- significant increases in physical activity;
- self-reported improvements in confidence and self-esteem from participating clients;
- improvement to mental well-being;
- provision of daily structure/routine;
- transferable skills acquisition;
- social networking/social skills development and
- intergenerational appeal / appeal to both sexes.
A resource guide (PDF 3.2Mb) has also been produced to help other organisations set up programmes like Branching Out.