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Reconnecting with nature: Using green spaces for mental health recovery

Trust: Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation
Trust Location: Mill View
Name: Claire Michie, Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist  


The issue

Claire Michie is a Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist with Sussex Partnership. She’s leading the way at Mill View in creating opportunities to bring patients closer to nature on their journey to recovery by improving patient access to green spaces for mental health recovery.  

"The evidence shows a link between access to green spaces and mental health recovery. You can see a difference in patient’s mood when they have come back from a walk. It helps them see beyond their admission and increase hope for the future." - Claire Michie 

Leading the way

Getting outside more

Green walking groups as well as mindful exercises and nature walks, have proved immensely popular among patients
Outside green space

Improved wellbeing

Positive changes in mood were observed in patients after they engaged with nature
Staff walking outside

Value for the future

Patients taking part in Green Spaces have said it gives them hope for the future, and a life beyond admission
Sunset with two people holding the word 'Hope'

The solution

To tackle this issue, Claire and her team implemented several initiatives. They developed green spaces within the hospital premises, including a therapeutic garden on the female ward. They also secured funding from Friends of Brighton & Hove Hospitals to install outdoor gyms on two wards, providing patients with beneficial environments for their health and recovery. 

Additionally, Claire explored the creation of an onsite allotment area that staff, patients, and their carers could actively engage with, fostering a connection with nature and promoting overall wellbeing. Collaborating with the health and safety team, they ensured the safety and privacy of the onsite spaces, taking into account the needs and comfort of the patients. 

The impact

Patients' feedback and participation in community meetings have highlighted their desire for access to green spaces as an essential part of their recovery. The introduction of green walking groups, along with the mindful exercises and nature walks, has proved immensely popular among patients. 

“The mindful exercises we do on the walks can have some lovely sensory benefits and evoke positive past memories or aspirations for the future. It really does help people reconnect with the world around them and can create a sense of purpose and meaning." - Claire Michie 

Observations reveal positive changes in patients' moods after engaging with nature. The experience helps them visualise a future beyond their admission, fostering hope and increasing their overall wellbeing. Access to green spaces has played a crucial role in reducing risks, supporting recovery, and facilitating safe discharge. 

The efforts at Mill View have successfully harnessed the therapeutic value of green spaces, aligning with the national drive to use nature for mental health recovery. By sustaining the momentum and interest in walking and nature, they continue to make a meaningful impact on patients' lives. 

Green space for wellbeing

Frequently asked questions

Research has shown that access to urban green spaces, parks and community gardens reduces stress and anxiety, aiding mental health recovery and improving overall wellbeing.

The Trust work closely with the health and safety team to ensure the onsite spaces are safe for everyone and also considering privacy issues for adjacent rooms/buildings.

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