Help us to continue supporting people with mental health issues to improve their quality of life through woodland based activities by donating to our Branching Out appeal.

The Project

Branching Out supports people with chronic mental health conditions and helps to overcome local issues such as isolation, lack of access to appropriate services and stigma which can be exacerbated in rural areas. Activities include cooking food on a camp fire, building shelters, walking, practicing tai-chi, making crafts or exercising mindfulness. The natural landscape provides the perfect setting for encouraging enhanced quality of life, engagement in social activities and peer to peer support through teamwork in the woods.

Branching Out is a national partnership programme between NHS, Forestry Commission Scotland and community organisations providing 12-week programmes of woodland activities for people on referral from mental health services.  ACT’s role in the project has been to establish a network across Argyll and the Isles. This provision of an area-wide umbrella organisation is unique to Argyll and has proved extremely successful. Our approach is considered nationally as an example of best practice.

Our impact

So far, our Branching Out programmes have delivered 14 complete programmes and 103 participant graduates from 196 referrals. There are five fully kitted-out teams in four localities across Argyll and Bute, with leaders trained in outdoor first aid, mental health first aid and outdoor campfire and food hygiene. The success of the programmes and their impact on participants has exceeded our expectations and we are very proud of everyone who has contributed to making this such a great project.

Who better to sum up the experience than the participants themselves...

Was dying to get to sleep on the Thursday night ‘cos it felt like Christmas eve. I knew I was coming here on the Friday. Fridays felt like Christmas for me."

 “I just wanted to come today to get out of the house…to get fresh air and get out…I chopped wood and made soup. That was great”

“I really enjoyed Branching Out, I learned new skills and always was in a better mood afterwards. It has been the best thing for my low moods.”

“I’m grateful I was able to take part and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their situation and how they feel in general.”

“I enjoyed everything about today especially the food. I felt good when I went home.”

"Although I never used to get up till 2pm in the afternoon by week three...am waiting outside washed and dressed...waiting for the driver."

The Problem

Funding for our current project ends in March 2019.  We have only just scratched the surface by engaging 10% of up to 2000 eligible participants in Argyll and Bute. The programme has the potential to help many more people to get back to nature and improve their health and wellbeing. Many graduates from the main Branching Out programmes are extending their participation by taking part in new progression “Moving On” projects which are being piloted across the region.   We are seeking new funding to continue and develop our Branching Out programmes and to maintain our commitment to supporting people with chronic mental health issues in rural areas.

How you can help

We want to continue to deliver supported activities as we know it is extremely beneficial for a lot of people. A funding gap risks deterioration in participants’ and graduates’ mental health and missed opportunities for helping many more people. With your help we can eliminate this risk by ensuring the Branching Out and Moving On programmes continue.

Please support the continuation of Branching Out in Argyll by making a donation.

You can donate online using the purple DONATE button on the right hand side of this page, or by sending a cheque to: Julie Young, ACT Development Manager, 1 Kilmory Industrial Estate, Lochgilphead, PA31 8RR.