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Public mental health and nature: a paradigm shift

Ambra Burls (UK Urban Ecology Forum, Liverpool, UK)
Julian Ashton (NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre PPI Contributor Pool, Abingdon, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 4 August 2021

Issue publication date: 14 September 2021




Drawing on experience of working in the area of mental health and the environment, key issues are examined, and the theoretical framework is explained, including the benefits to communities and to the local environment of working with nature.


The interview gave an opportunity for development of ideas underlying concepts including the natural health service, green health literacy and changes in behaviour during the pandemic.


The ways in which people and the environment benefit from interaction with nature are becoming well understood; in a sustainable model, the value of the local environment is appreciated and will benefit from the care of those involved in relevant activities. There is a need for targeted training for health professionals, environment agencies’ staff and the voluntary sectors.

Research limitations/implications

The economic value of nature as a contributing factor in to mental health is an area for research which could have major influence in policymaking. A meeting of a number of disciplines could further bring together social capital, health economics and ecology.

Practical implications

Projects that are sustainable in every sense are those which are long term, whose value can be measured in environmental and economic terms.

Social implications

Working models have been developed that involve people on the fringes of society and people with disabilities; they often become the movers in local organisations.


This is an extremely wide-ranging assessment of developments in the relationship between mental health and nature.



Burls, A. and Ashton, J. (2021), "Public mental health and nature: a paradigm shift", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 221-228.



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