I’ve become very detached from TV over the past few years and was never really familiar with TV beyond RTE channels anyway. As a result really great things like BBC’s Winterwatch were not on my radar until I was pointed at it recently (thanks!) It’s a gorgeous production – the thermal camera images were beautiful all by themselves – and there is just stunning work throughout. I was going to enthuse here anyway but I’d really, really like to draw attention to a segment on episode 2 of the seventh season (this year’s season, 2019), which starts with a conversation between one of the hosts, Chris Packham, and Joe Harkness about their mental health. Joe Harkness has written a book called Bird Therapy and so much of what they discussed just fit nicely with why I’m here tapping madly on my keyboard these days and spending so much more time in woodland. I found the whole segment powerfully moving while also being simple and uplifting. Joe has a twitter account, @BirdTherapy, so I’ll let him do the talking:
I’ve uploaded the entire @BBCSpringwatch feature to YouTube, to help reach out to as many people as we can. Please share widely to spread the message that it’s ok to talk openly about our mental health. https://t.co/QVOqkiUrT5 pic.twitter.com/FP2I29YcOK
— Bird Therapy (@BirdTherapy) February 4, 2019
I remember some text-over-image meme thing going around Facebook a few years ago, the famous “This is an antidepressant” over a forest photo and unhelpful things over a photo of medicinal antidepressants. Then there were all the responses. That original meme really wasn’t a helpful thing, what it planted in my (damn fool) brain was a sort of angry resistance; trite suggestions to “just be positive” or “just get some exercise” are not useful, however well meaning. What happens is a sort of weird conflation, good intentions of people extolling the virtues of taking a walk in the great outdoors get swamped in your brain by the idea that that person thinks that’s magically going to cure you. Depressed brains are weird, they don’t process things like that well. I really liked that the conversation was utterly honest, that counselling and time and medication were all real and useful and openly discussed. Bird watching, or forest bathing or insect spotting, or any of so many gorgeous and interesting pursuits in nature are absolutely to be recommended, I really cannot stress how wonderful I believe they are for mental health, but take mental health seriously and don’t just dismiss it as something a quick 15 minute turn of a morning is going to set right.
That said, I am a believer that the Five Ways to Wellbeing are a useful way to move in the right direction once you are in a position to get going with them, and like Joe the natural world is definitely where I go to be active and take notice.
For completeness I include them here, they are:
While on the subject on mental health I would also like to mention a blogpost by Larissa Reid, who discovered a way to deal with post natal depression through observing and absorbing nature, and through the writings of Robert Macfarlane, a post that’s been reblogged on the Land Lines Project blog.