Myplace is a joint initiative between Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (LCFT) and The Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT). The project has already empowered almost 260 young people, in the Preston, Chorley and East Lancashire areas (aged 13 to 24 years) to take action within their local greenspaces that both improves their health and wellbeing as well as benefitting their local community. The aim of the project is to support 1,000 young people in central and east Lancashire to participate in outdoor ecotherapy based activities that improve their mental health and physical wellbeing. Myplace enables young people to contribute towards local environmental improvement whilst developing new skills, grow in self-confidence, build resilience and connect with their local communities.
What We Did
Myplace is a joint initiative between Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (LCFT) and The Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT). The project has already empowered almost 260 young people, in the Preston, Chorley and East Lancashire areas (aged 13 to 24 years) to take action within their local greenspaces that both improves their health and wellbeing as well as benefitting their local community.
The aim of the project is to support 1,000 young people in central and east Lancashire to participate in outdoor ecotherapy based activities that improve their mental health and physical wellbeing. Myplace enables young people to contribute towards local environmental improvement whilst developing new skills, grow in self-confidence, build resilience and connect with their local communities.
A number of case studies have now been developed that demonstrate the success that Myplace ecotherapy activities bring to young people’s lives by them being involved in the following activities:
• Practical conservation work
• Wildlife walks using active listening and observation
• Mindful environments
• Bushcraft that includes den building, managed fire-lighting and cooking
• Plant and food growing activities
As Myplace promotes inclusiveness, the project remains universally accessible to all young people aged between 13 & 24 years regardless of ability or additional needs resulting in Myplace offering an effective preventative activity or a complimentary therapy aligned with more traditional Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) based therapies and treatments.
As LCFT clinicians are key referrers into the project, we deliver regular half-day taster sessions to introduce them to the ecotherapy experience.
Myplace is promoted widely and this includes presenting the project at a number of local and national forums and actively involving wider publicity. The success of this approach can be demonstrated by the fact that Myplace has featured recently on BBC Breakfast and was also selected to host a Royal Visit from HRH Prince Harry where the Prince spent time with a number of the young people undertaking ecotherapy activities in a woodland area at Brockholes in Preston.
Wider Active Support
Myplace is a joint partnership initiative between LCFT and LWT, however Myplace involves other partners as below.
• Our Bright Future
• Richmond Fellowship
• Clinical Commissioning Groups
• Myplace sits within The Wildlife Trust’s own ‘Every Child Wild’, making a connection with young people and nature
• Public Health England
• Chorley Council
• Preston City Council
• Blackburn with Darwen Council
• Various Pupil Referral Units
In addition to the formal partnership between LCFT and LWT, Myplace works effectively with other organisations to embed and promote Myplace and ecotherapy.
For instance LCFT has good links with Chorley Council and therefore we worked with Chorley Council to source three hubs which would be suitable for the delivery of Myplace in the borough. In addition to the three locality hubs, Chorley Council agreed for Myplace to be represented at their first Health and Wellbeing mela and for the Myplace project to be presented to a number of their staff.
The council also agreed for Myplace to work alongside the Cotswold Supported Living Unit, which is the Council’s own temporary housing accommodation unit for homeless people. Myplace worked with Cotswold Supported Living during the summer months providing ecotherapy type activities to young people and families. The project received excellent feedback and provided these temporary residents a worthwhile boost to their emotional health and wellbeing.
As the Myplace is now being promoted more widely and receiving more publicity, we expect that Myplace will be able to work with a wider range of partners, who will both support and promote Myplace and ecotherapy.
Myplace is an innovative project and, as such, establishing the project from scratch to a viable service required a robust collaboration between all parties from corporate and clinical staff to Wildlife Trust project staff . This included the development of referral pathways and the creation of locality hubs to undertake the ecotherapy and the sharing of best practice across the hubs as the service developed.
However, the involvement of the young people who attended Myplace was fundamental in the development of the service to enable it to meet their needs. This meant that young people did not have to adhere to a set syllabus but are able to develop and shape the Myplace delivery in such a way that meets their needs and that of the community in a true co-production model.
This approach enabled the young people to be empowered and encouraged by the following initiatives:
• By joint working with young people at each ‘hub’ over a 9 month period
• Jointly produce Individual Personal Development Plans
• Empowering young people to design projects on behalf of their community
• Empower young people to present to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ event to secure resources for their own project ideas
• Encourage young people to apply for the John Muir Awards so they could be accredited and to acknowledge for their newly acquired skills.
Young people are involved in developing and improving the hubs and green spaces as an integral part of the Myplace project. Accordingly Myplace is developed in conjunction with the young people including sharing best practice and ideas. Young people have been actively involved in the promotion of Myplace and have produced articles for Lapwing, the Wildlife Trust Magazine.
In addition young people were responsible for creating their own video about ecotherapy. The young people went about scripting and storyboarding a short film. They undertook all the filming and producing and once there was sufficient material they edited the video to a bitesize video clip for the LCFT and LWT websites and youtube . This video is now used as part of the Myplace PowerPoint Presentation, where acknowledgement and credit is give to the production of the video to the young ‘directors’ people (https://youtu.be/pup-adwkKPU)
Other Co-production activities included:
• LCFT Honorary Contracts to LWT staff for access to LCFT systems
• A joint communications and branding plan
• Regional and national press coverage
• All forum presentations are jointly presented
• A joint inaugural Launch Event
• Developing promotional material
• Taster sessions with LCFT and LWT staff and young people
Looking Back/Challenges Faced
Our challenges came in the following areas
Promoting Myplace within LCFT
Generally clinicians appreciated the benefits of Myplace but surprisingly they didn’t make many referrals, so it was decided to regularly promote Myplace via newsletters and videos, posters and screensavers.
A Myplace Taster Day was piloted enabling clinicians to experience the ecotherapy activities and promote the benefits to their patients. The initial Taster Day received excellent feedback and so a series of half day taster sessions have now been rolled out.
A Desk-Top icon was developed with LCFT’s IT department enabling staff to make referrals more easily than searching and saving the link to their ‘web favorites’ The Desk-Top Icon used the Myplace logo for increased brand awareness.
The Myplace team attended LCFT team meetings promoting Myplace as a complimentary or alternative therapeutic intervention. Staff were invited staff to attend the Taster Days. Staff details were taken to create a Myplace e-mail marketing list. This list enabled Myplace to provide regular updates including video links as below.
We worked with Local Authorities and other Community organisations in order to identify suitable community based greenspaces which would become the local hubs. Generally most landowners were amenable but some appeared to be reluctant as if put off by the prospect of having the area used by young people and the stigma of mental health.
Promoting Myplace externally
Myplace has time-limited funding and we considered that we needed to maximise the awareness of Myplace to show case the benefits of ecotherapy and to introduce ecotherapy as a more normal and routine therapeutic intervention and to increase the likelihood of potential funding support in the future.
Accordingly Myplace has been actively promoted through a number of channels and forums and has now received national coverage through BBC Breakfast and the recent Royal Visit by HRH Prince Harry
Independent evidence supporting the benefits of ecotherapy
We recognised that therapeutic evidence and case studies would be required to demonstrate the effectiveness of ecotherapy and this takes time to accumulate. The University of Essex report proves the effectiveness of ecotherapy and we are producing a number of individual case studies to demonstrate the true impact of Myplace and how it empowers and builds confidence, often enabling young people to ‘springboard’ into further opportunities for their development.
The Myplace project manager is an experienced therapist who provides regular supervision to the project team. The Myplace project officers are all skilled at delivering environmental activities and additionally are all mental health first aid and safeguarding trained.
Promoting the benefits of Myplace ecotherapy activities will help to develop the project from being an innovative project to an evidence based mainstream therapeutic intervention that compliments existing medical therapies and treatments that ultimately make Myplace sustainable and provides cost saving and other strategic benefits to the NHS.
Evaluation (Peer or Academic)
The University of Essex report Volunteering: A Natural Health Service reached reported on the key findings below
• 95% of participants with low wellbeing at the start reported an improvement in 6 weeks, which increased further over the next 6 weeks.
• The mental wellbeing of more than two-thirds of participants (69%) had improved after just 6 weeks.
• On average there was a statistically significant improvement of 8.1% in the sample
In addition the report concluded that:
“Volunteering on Wildlife Trust projects for at least 6 weeks resulted in statistically significant improvements in their mental wellbeing. The greatest improvements were for people who had a low wellbeing at the start or were new to volunteering with the Wildlife Trusts”
All the Myplace case studies are developed in conjunction and consent of the young people. In addition the young people have also been prepared to appear on video and even BBC Breakfast to reaffirm the benefits of attending the Myplace project.
Essentially, both the case studies and the University of Essex findings confirm the above benefits in improving the emotional health and wellbeing of young people.
The outcomes associated with the Myplace project are being evaluated with the use of the Warwick & Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale as well through the production and evaluation of case studies.
The project has a number of case studies that show effective improvement in young people’s self-confidence and resilience that has resulted in many of them going on to further volunteering opportunities, advocating the project as part of the Our Bright Future national youth forum as well as gaining employment within the Myplace project at a trainee level.
Impressive outcomes have also been reported at several Pupil Referral Units in East Lancashire where improvements in attendance, behavior and wellbeing have all been noted by school and project staff as a direct consequence of their participation on the Myplace project.
We continue to publicise and promote the MyPlace project which has included the WWF Conservation Optimism Summit in London on 22nd April as part of Earth Day where MyPlace participated in a discussion panel that was looking at the positive health benefits associated with nature.
Myplace attended a ‘poster’ session to promote the project and the Lancashire Care and Lancashire Wildlife Trust partnership at the children and young people’s conference hosted by a part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists on 15th June 2017.
Myplace has been promoted at the following forums
• Our Health Our Care Conference workshop.
• Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director for NHS England
• Positive Practice in Mental Health Directory launch event
• LCFT’s Annual Members Meeting
Is there any other information you would like to add?
The Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Lancashire Wildlife Trust Partnership is looking at ways in which Lancashire Care staff can be encouraged to undertake volunteering work for the Wildlife Trust and the suitability of Spice Time Credits http://www.justaddspice.org/our-work for staff.
We feel that Myplace makes a real difference by increasing
• Young people and staff emotional and physical wellbeing
• Young people and staff experience of nature
• Young people’s safety awareness combined with improved outcomes.
• Access, inclusion and equality and diversity.
• Effective multi-agency working and innovation.
• Improved cost efficiencies and co-production.
Overall Myplace effectively helps with the management of mental health conditions and improvement of health and wellbeing by increasing resilience. This in turn can lead to increased employability prospects by improving an individual’s self confidence by providing them with new skills
The project also improves community cohesion and increases public awareness of the benefits associated with connecting with nature and our natural environment.