A group providing therapeutic “nature walks” has said demand is rocketing from people seeking help with their mental health amid financial pressures.
Wellbeing Enterprises, based in Runcorn, Cheshire, provides support including walks and counselling.
Founder Mark Swift said: “People were already struggling before the cost-of-living crisis, and now many are at breaking point.
“The support we provide has become a lifeline.”
He said the social enterprise company had seen a 47% increase in demand in the past three months.
Residents in Halton, which covers Runcorn and Widnes, are given “social prescriptions” by their GP or practice nurse, or they can self-refer, the group explained.
Support can be anything from giving out foodbank vouchers, buying someone a washing machine with help from the Halton Discretionary Fund, counselling sessions or a wellbeing walk.
One group recently met at Victoria Park in Widnes and among them was Val, a new joiner who decided to come along after the death of her father.
“I lost my father in February this year and I’m struggling really,” she said.
“I’m finding it quite hard because I cared for dad. Mum and dad met here in this park 80 years ago and they were together for 77 years, so it’s been very cathartic, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Libby is autistic and said the walks are good for her mental health.
She said: “It gets me outside, it gets me talking to people. It’s good for exercise. It just really helps.
“I was referred to it for my wellbeing and I just found all these different activities and the walks really interested me.”
She said she felt “a lot calmer”, adding: “I feel happier. I feel proud of myself for getting out and doing something”.
Wellbeing Enterprises’ Vicky Bennett said: “Some of these people that have come today live on their own and they’re going home to an empty house.
“Having had this makes a world of difference to their day.
“Financially, physically, mentally, there’s an awful big pressure on people and getting out into these open spaces and enjoying nature, that’s a free resource.”