The Natural Health Service, managed by The Mersey Forest, is part of a pilot programme to prevent suicide amongst men in Cheshire and Merseyside. Their current wellbeing programme in Northwich has been running since May and makes the most of outdoor spaces and the natural environment to support residents.
An experienced practitioner with a strong background in men’s wellbeing leads the programme, which started online due to COVID restrictions at the time.
The group have chosen their own project name, ‘Salt Men Confidential’, with a tag line of ‘healthy minds and bodies for men’ to reflect the needs of the group. ‘Salt Men’ highlights the historic nature of the industry of Northwich and Winsford and that it is a confidential space for men. The group have actively taken ownership of its publicity to encourage other men in similar circumstances to join, a key aim of the project that encourages the group members’ to take control over their own health and wellbeing.
Since May 2021, the group have been meeting outdoors at Marbury Country Park, Northwich Woodlands.
Sessions combine outdoor creative activities within local woodlands and green spaces. For example, taking part in a photo project, which involve aspects of creative writing, motivational and aspirational life planning and promoting healthy minds and better physical health.
The group take short walks in nature with cameras every Wednesday and photograph a subject that they find interesting and relevant to an aspect of their life. Walking with a purpose promotes physical health and helps aid discussion and rapport between members. By discussing details about the photos, people’s barriers come down and they begin to open up.
Chris, the programme lead, explains one of the many topics of discussion that has been explored through this creative programme so far: “We have been able to explore how using creativity and, especially nature photography, is a starting point of mindfulness and how the stillness you need to achieve before taking the image you want whilst being surrounded by nature has great benefits to your health and wellbeing that last well beyond the session. This creative stillness and visualising the image translates well into how you interact with any space and can be used to visualise the relationships you want to work on and steps you want to take to achieve your personal health goals. We are nearing the end of the first block of 12 weeks and have covered a lot of ground, quickly, over this time. The group are now openly discussing challenges around their health and the circumstances they’ve faced during the past 15 months. The group have collectively and individually made positive steps towards the changes they want to make. We are looking at how these new lifestyle choices will last beyond the duration of the project, by engaging and informing more local men and supporting conversations to take place about men’s health and wellbeing”.
The next 12-week programme is due to start on Wednesday 11 August.
For more information contact Chris on 07970 861062 or [email protected], or, Elizabeth (Mersey Forest’s Natural Health Service Co-ordinator) on 07541 691504 or [email protected].