Fort William is at the foot of Ben Nevis in Lochaber, an area referred to as The Outdoor Capital of the UK due to its outstanding natural environment and wide range of opportunities for outdoor pursuits.
There is a wealth of evidence that spending time outdoors in nature is beneficial for mental health and wellbeing. We therefore see this resource around us as ‘Natural Capital’ available to everyone and so we want to find out how to maximise these benefits for young people in Fort William.
If apparent ease of access to the outdoors was the only determinant of mental health and wellbeing though, this area should also be famous for being The Wellbeing and Happiness Capital of the UK. However, this is far from being the case for the young people of the town and surrounding areas, which have experienced a high level of self-inflicted death and problematic substance use in recent years.
The aims of our project are to investigate existing barriers to local young people using the outdoors, and to consider and test ways of encouraging such involvement to improve their emotional and physical wellbeing, leading to improved mental health and enjoyment of life.
We propose that Ewen's Room will collaborate with another local charity, The Buzz Project, to deliver a series of focus-groups and engage with local young people in research to find out:
- How young people in Fort William currently use the natural environment surrounding the town
- What the benefits are for those who do regularly engage in outdoor activities
- What the barriers are for those that do not
- How to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people in the area
Support for the Project
"Green Health Highland and the Highland Green Health Partnership aim to increase outdoor activity across Highland, especially amongst disadvantaged groups; increase people’s awareness of the health benefits of outdoor activities in their communities; and to demonstrate impact to support future green health activities. As such we are very supportive of projects such as this that seek the same outcomes."
Tania Alliod - Green Health Events Project Officer, Green Health Highland
About Ewen’s Room
Ewen’s Room is a small charity that promotes wellbeing and mental health in Lochaber, the Small Isles and Mull. We achieve this by taking proactive approaches to maintaining wellbeing and preventing mental health problems arising by:
- Delivering workshops on emotional wellbeing and building resilience
- Running drop-in groups across the area to reduce social isolation
- Delivering mental health awareness to local school pupils
- Providing a school counsellor to support young people in several local High Schools
- Co-delivering Green Exercise initiatives
- Running a confidential Helpline and Textline
- Working to ensure that everyone in the area has access to the support they need to overcome difficulties associated with problems of wellbeing and mental health
About The Buzz Project
The mission of the Buzz Project is to enable young people in the Lochaber area of the Highlands of Scotland to identify and fulfil their potential. They enable young people to express their needs, wants and ideas with confidence, develop increased self-awareness and learn skills which will benefit them in life, in education and the workplace. The Buzz Project runs Studio Two on Fort William High Street and also has its own refurbished bus, providing a mobile music studio and teaching area using music as a medium for communication, expression, learning skills for the future and building relationships.