A Lake District charity plans to use the great outdoors to help frontline workers whose mental health has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic.
Conservation charity Friends of the Lake District has launched an appeal to raise £25,000 to fund a new ‘Sanctuary Project’ aimed at using the proven benefits of nature to boost the mental and physical wellbeing of exhausted workers whose mental health has suffered after months on the frontlines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Starting early next year, the Sanctuary Project will run for an initial 12 months, with hope for expansion after that. Through activities such as coppicing, bushcraft, woodland wild camping and open water swimming, or simply spending meditative time in the outdoors, participants will be encouraged to use nature to rebuild their resilience and cope with the demands of these unprecedented times. Nature will benefit too, as activities such as tree planting will help protect and enhance the precious landscapes of the Lake District.
Ruth Kirk, Landscape Engagement Officer with Friends of the Lake District, said:
“Since the COVID outbreak, two things have become clear: how much we rely on nature and how much we rely on our frontline workers. Day in and day out, we’ve seen them bravely and selflessly risk their lives to care for the most vulnerable members of society.
“The public may, or may not, be surprised to learn that 92% of emergency workers have suffered mental health problems. In July, we surveyed workers from across the NHS and emergency services. 75% said their mental health had worsened as a result of the COVID-crisis and almost all felt the chance to take part in our Sanctuary Project would improve their well-being. We wanted to find a way to give back, supporting both nature and our frontline services. We believe our new Sanctuary Project will achieve both.
“Engaging people with the landscape has always been a core part of what Friends of the Lake District does. Set on our land at Mike’s Wood, Staveley, we’ll run a series of three-day retreats, combining conservation work with outdoor activities in a tranquil, therapeutic setting to reconnect frontline workers with nature.”
Supporting the project will be Luke Collyer, a qualified bushcraft instructor and Mountain Leader. Also, as a serving NHS paramedic, Luke has the first-hand experience of the trauma many frontline workers face, having himself moved to the Lake District following his own mental and physical burnout. Only by reconnecting with the natural landscape was he able to heal, recover and return to providing emergency medical care.
Many people will have taken part in the ‘Clap for Carers’ during lockdown to show their support for frontline workers, and nature helped many of us cope with the COVID-crisis. It reduced stress, recharged batteries and boosted resilience. By donating to Friends of the Lake District’s Sanctuary Project, you can give frontline workers the chance to enjoy those benefits too.
Donations can be made online at https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/appeal/sanctuary-appeal