A new project has been announced today to improve people’s mental health through connecting to ‘watery’ nature

12th May 2021
Challenging mental health inequalities

New YouGov research, released today by the Mental Health Foundation, has found 65% of people find being near water improves their mental wellbeing and is their favourite part of nature.

A new scheme in London announced today called Blue Prescribing will allow up to 300 people experiencing poor mental health and with limited access to water in natural settings the chance to take part in a six week, wetland nature-based health programme at WWT London Wetland Centre - beginning this summer and running for a year.

The initiative has been set up in response to a growing body of evidence that being in nature can reduce psychological stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression and that access to blue and green space is associated with better health outcomes. This is backed up by YouGov research released today by the Mental Health Foundation that shows that 65 per cent of people find being near water (coast, rivers, lakes and ponds) has a positive impact on their mental health. This was more than any other way to connect with nature. 

The Blue Prescribing Project will see participants take part in hands-on, nature-based activities in a ‘watery’ natural setting to help improve their mental and physical wellbeing, with the effects of the project being scientifically evaluated.

The scheme, based at London Wetland Centre, will be co-designed between the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), the Mental Health Foundation and participants. Activities will build participants' health, knowledge and confidence in wetland nature and facilitate peer support to enhance social inclusion and resilience. Overall, the aim is to enable people to continue independently exploring nature to improve their long-term mental health.

The project follows a pilot programme of similar design for people diagnosed with anxiety or depression carried out at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre. Here, participants' levels of stress and anxiety were reduced through regular, guided access to wetlands, with the group overall moving up a clinical mental health grade from 'below average' to 'average'.

The ‘on the ground’ element of the Blue Prescribing Project will be supported by an online nature-based, mental health self-management course. Participants' transport will be fully funded and financial support will be available to increase online access to help ensure the project is available to all.

Dr Jonathan Reeves, Principal Research Officer (Health & Wellbeing) from WWT said “The benefits of getting out in nature for our mental wellbeing has become well known during the pandemic, but those experiencing mental health problems, and those most at risk, still face greater barriers to accessing nature. They are more likely to live in urban areas with fewer natural spaces and less likely to have the means to travel to those spaces.

“The Blue Prescribing scheme at London Wetland Centre aims to enable greater access to ‘watery’ wetland nature to those that most need it. The blue and green space found in wetlands seems to be particularly beneficial as demonstrated by today’s MHF research showing that being by water provides the biggest positive impact on people’s mental health compared to all other ways to connect with nature.”

He added: “Our science and feedback from participants on our Slimbridge programme tells us that Blue Prescribing works, is cost-effective and that the participants love it and want more. We’re really excited to be able to roll out a bigger version of the project for Londoners.”

Jolie Goodman, Programmes Manager for Empowerment and Later Life from the Mental Health Foundation commented:

Many people in Britain get no support for their mental health from the NHS. Projects like Blue Prescribing - which will start at the London Wetlands Centre later this summer - are a way for people to protect their own mental health and prevent them from needing crisis support. We are delighted to be working with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust to support people from a range of communities to keep in good mental health by connecting with wetland nature next to water.

The project has been fully funded by Simplyhealth, the UK’s leading health solutions company.

The Blue Prescribing Project

Learn more about our work on the Blue Prescribing Project and hear from one of our participants on the programme.
Explore the programme
Blue Prescribing Project - photo bird

Notes to editors

For further information or to arrange an interview with Jonathan Reeves, please contact  %70res%73%6fffi%[email protected] " rel="nofollow"> [email protected]  or 07884 001550. For interview requests for Jolie Goodman, please contact  [email protected] .

Blue Prescribing

The Blue Prescribing initiative is a type of social prescribing, where health care professionals can refer people to local, non-clinical services to improve health and wellbeing and make better use of community resources.

To find out more about Blue Prescribing, visit the WWT website

YouGov research

The YouGov research cited in this release was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4274 UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6 to 8 April 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a charity working to save wetlands globally and in the UK for wildlife, people and our planet. WWT runs ten reserves across the UK, managing 3000 hectares of the best wetland habitat in the UK, and providing inspirational experiences to encourage people to value wetlands and the amazing wildlife they support.

Find out more on their website

Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation is the leading charity for everyone’s mental health. With prevention at the heart of what we do, we aim to find and address the sources of mental health problems so that people and communities can thrive.

Find out more about the Foundation's Blue Prescribing Project

About Simplyhealth

Since 1872, we’ve been helping people make the most of life through better everyday health. Our plans make sure individuals, families and employees can easily access in-person and virtual wellbeing services, and afford to stay healthy by claiming costs back on dental treatments, visits to the optician, complementary therapies and much more.

Today we’re delighted to be the UK’s leading health solutions company, with almost 1000 colleagues serving 2.3 million customers. We don’t have shareholders, so we’re led by our purpose of improving access to healthcare, for the many, for the long term. We’re passionate about using our voice in public health affairs and partnering with charities to reduce health inequality – each year we commit to giving 10% of pre-tax profits to a range of community causes. And we ensure our business takes care of the planet too, achieving Carbon Neutral + status in 2021. 

To find out more, visit their website

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