Eco-Therapy Helps Religious Leaders Address Mental Illness

Any faith leader can tell you that addressing mental illness is a difficult aspect of their leadership. While opinions on how to medically treat mental illness may vary, one thing is certain; climate change doesn't help! EcoAmerica's Report, Beyond Storms & Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change, displays the various ways in which our changing climate is having a negative affect on the psychological state of your congregates — leaving faith leaders perplexed on what to do.

Recent studies have shown that when people who suffer from mental illness (of all forms) are reconnected with nature, their symptoms tend to improve. The Guardian article, Ecotherapy: How Does the Great Outdoors Improve Mental Health?, discusses some of the mental benefits of reconnecting with nature. Coined 'Eco-Therapy', a movement has emerged that works in congruence with standard mental illness treatment.

While the doctors do their part, faith leaders are there to offer an ear for council; scriptures to sooth the soul; and moral guidance to keep those suffering on track. Many specialists are suggesting that Eco-Therapy might further these efforts along by placing mental illness sufferers in a setting that connects them to God's creation.

But Eco-Therapy isn't just for those diagnosed with mental illness as whole congregations are beginning to adopt the therapeutic practice to ease feelings of isolated and anxiety.

For more on the psychological effects of climate change, checkout ecoAffect's full report.

Ecotherapy: How Does the Great Outdoors Improve Mental Health?

By Oliver James for The Gaurdian

At the age of 11 I was an angry boy who earned unpopularity through assiduous selfishness and hostility. At that time I was at a boarding school in Kent, surrounded by rich, fecund forest. It proved my saviour in several different ways.

The first was literal. The forest was my protection from occasional hordes of other boys who decided to pick on me. Because I was nimble, I would leg it into the forest and conceal myself by hiding under piles of leaves or in bushes. I would lie completely still and in between the cries of the chasing pack, listen to the sounds of the wood. The forest wrapped me up and hid me.

But during the spring and summer terms it was also a place where I could feel pleasure in solitude and through which I was able to become elevated beyond my unhappy terrestrial life. I would head off to the edges of the estate in which the school was located and climb to the top of some very tall trees. From that position of sovereignty, I could relax. I gazed out across the countryside, above, as well as within it.

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