During Mental Health Awareness Week we will publish some stories from participants who are happy to share how the programme is helping them with their mental health and how it is giving them a stepping stone onto the next stage in their journey to mental wellbeing. Here is Owen's story:

Owen's story: "The best experience of my life"

Owen joined the Wellbeing Programme in November 2015 following a severe episode of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Recalling those difficult times, he explains that the stress was work-related: "The job I had was very stressful – I was working as a retail security officer and also as a doorman in a rough area. I saw a lot of physical violence – sometimes involving guns and knives, even a samurai sword. A lot of the aggression was directed at me; after ten years of working in this line of work I became desensitised to violence – it got to the point where I did not care about the outcome of any situation I was getting into."

The stress eventually took a toll on Owen's mental health. "I felt trapped within my own home – I was scared to leave the house, and mentally felt very low and suicidal." Owen found it increasingly difficult to cope… He turned to drink and eventually ended up in a coma, fighting for his life.

This was a wake-up call for him, and slowly with the support of his parents and the mental health services, his life started to turn around. It was his Community Psychiatric Nurse who suggested the Wellbeing Programme to him, and although he was a bit wary and apprehensive about the idea at first, he now says that, "joining the programme has been the best experience of my life."

The Wellbeing Programme offers weekly nature-based activities – like conservation tasks, nature crafts and nature walks – at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's nature reserves or other local green spaces. Research has shown that taking part in these activities can contribute to reducing levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

Owen completed the programme and since finishing has become a Volunteer Support Assistant on one of the groups, helping the team deliver the activities that will benefit others who are struggling with mental health issues; just like they benefited him. He says: "Through the programme, I have gained a lot more confidence in myself and in my abilities. It's also helping me with building relationships."

Owen is a valued volunteer member of the team and has also taken on the role of looking after the team's tool cupboard. He comes in once a week to make sure all the tools are kept in order and are in tip top condition ready for their next outing. The cupboard now boasts neat rows of loppers and bow saws, and tidy stacks of pitchforks and shovels, as well as a host of other tools, and its tidy state now is a far cry from what it looked like before.

Owen is clear that he would like to return to work at some point in the future and is certain that whatever it is that he decides to do it will somehow involve working outdoors.

He says: "The programme has changed my life. I would definitely recommend the programme as the benefits of being out with other people with supportive and understanding staff are huge."

Get in touch

If you feel you would benefit from joining the programme, or know someone who might benefit, please get in touch with us. We run groups in Wiltshire and Swindon. Call the office on 01380 736 098 or email us for more information.