Circle of Life Rediscovery have been working with CAMHS over the past few years. This is the feedback from the staff from CAMHS at last meeting. Share your thoughts on outdoor learning.

What do you think are the benefits of this type of work for young people & families?

  • I think the main thing they gain from being out in the open gives young people freedom. There are no confinements of being stuck in a clinic, or a doctor’s room or a school, and they just get to be free and get to express themselves in a way that they can’t in other places. It’s also an amazing place for families to bond.
  • I think it’s a fantastic, and creative environment to bring families and young people into. There are so many opportunities offered here. All the activities are very well planned out, and there is the opportunity for group and one-to-one time.  There is lots of opportunity to discuss, and also just have lots of fun!
  • I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for families to be together, outside in a neutral environment, especially in nature, given the benefits of nature connection. It’s a spacious and quiet environment, and it can allow families to connect with other families, possibly with a sense of community. It brings about well-being, and gives children the chance to have a run around, play games, have fun, eat together. People just being outside, learning more about being outside.
  • In my experience it is beneficial for parents as it enables them to meet other parents whose children are also going through CAMHS. The young people get a similar benefit from coming together in a group and meeting other young people who might be similar to them, because normally these young people tend to step away from group activities because of their issues. An environment like this is incredibly healthy for them. When they first come here they are all very distant from each other, they don’t know what to expect, they’ve never met each other before. And then when they come here its like a big social group, they learn to work as a team, they’re working with adults. And then when they go, they are a group, they’re not individual, they’re not different, they are just the same as each other, not the odd ones out. They are all young people, experiencing mental health issues in a society that just doesn’t get it.
  • I think for young people, it’s a different sense of space, because usually they are in rooms that they’re only allowed to leave when with permission, they’re in a house which they need permission to go out of, and are accompanied often. Here, they can be round the fire with their parents and just travel off, and wander far away, and the parents don’t have to worry about where they’ve gone to because they can see them. And the child can feel “gosh, I can just wander freely”. We realised after a bit, because we were thinking do we need to be worried about the children that have wandered off, but the interest is all here, and they’ll just come back when they are ready. Of course you have to keep a bit of an eye on them, but they have more of a sense of freedom. And then with the activities, with our school system what we aim to do is to get kids sitting behind a table listening to someone speaking and writing, for some kids that’s great, but for a lot of kids that isn’t so good because they can’t feel that they are doing well in that situation. Here its really physical, you have that sense of being shown something by someone, then they can do it and they can see it, and they can feel really proud of it. There is a sort of ancientness about it, in some ways, children know that they are doing something that their ancestors would do, such as fires, carving, and making faces out of mud. I think that connects us all back to an ancient piece of ourselves.
  • I’ve been working on this programme for 2 years, and I’ve worked with young people, children and families in other settings, and I find that there is something very different about working outdoors from their perspective. I think because they are in the natural world, it helps them get in touch with themselves naturally, and they often say that they feel more natural and more free. Just bringing them back to what they are, they are part of nature, and that is just magical I think. There are certain children and young people who just don’t learn in a classroom setting, they don’t fit into school. And there are certain parents that feel that their kids don’t fit in with “normal society”, and that they as parents might not as well for whatever reason. Bringing them into an outdoor setting where they can learn in a different way can really open their minds to the fact that there are different ways of learning, rather than what just gets prescribed through the system.
  • I think coming out here, being a mixture of adults and young people all together, is a very freeing space, all the people we’ve been bringing out here have said that. It’s a very freeing space both in terms of maybe some young people have said that they are stuck indoors or in a very urban environment. And free in terms of their personality, out here they can decide who they are, and not feel like they have to conform to a particular group, just find out who they are and enjoy being free. I’ve heard young people say ‘I don’t have to be naughty’, they get to find a different side of themselves, particularly the older younger people ages 12 plus have said they have realised that they do have social skills and can get on with other people. All of the families and young people have said how they experience coming together out here, they realise they are all just like anybody else. Although there may be a bit of an issue going on for them with their mental health, that is just a small bit of them, there is lots more. Somehow being out here allows them to explore that. I think that they are given the responsibility to take risks, and I know a lot of families have said ‘gosh I would never take my child to do fire making or using knives’ and I think a lot of professionals would feel frightened to do that, and we wouldn’t do that as CAMHS on our own. But its about giving young people that responsibility, doing things that are seen as dangerous, suddenly they are able to take responsibility for a lot more, and they realise that they can be responsible for this activity. It gives them a great sense of empowerment, and the strength to perhaps solve other problems they’ve got as well. They think ‘I am able to do this’ and they stand more upright with that. They all have a lot of fun. There is something about mixing the age groups on the family days, and a coming together across age groups that I think is really important, and people get a lot out of, that sharing. It is like age isn’t as important anymore. It is equalising. Maybe the older young people feel that as well between CAMHS staff and Circle of Life Staff, we are all here equal, experiencing this together. There is probably loads more!
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