Sonar power: how bats are helping boost mental health

An unlikely ally is helping NHS Forth Valley mental health workers deliver the Trust's John Muir Award

Daubenton bat detail

NHS Forth Valley has enlisted an unlikely new ally in its campaign to improve mental wellbeing. Frontline health workers have been out on the banks of the River Allan at Dunblane with the Bat Conservation Trust monitoring the tiny creatures of the night.

This introduction to the flying mammals, including the the Pipistrelle, was funded by NHS Scotland as part of a wider promotion of the John Muir Award to health workers. The aim is to provide workers with the basic skills required to use wild places to support adult mental health, and bat monitoring activities proved to be a resounding success.

Anne Youngman of the Bat Conservation Trust believes that the initiative could help mental health patients along the road to recovery while making a contribution to scientific understanding.

“Bats are usually a new topic to most people and a little bit mysterious – learning something new is a great confidence boost. Doing bat surveys in towns or countryside gets people out of doors connecting with nature. People feel good about contributing to science too.

“On a sensory level, being out at sunset or before dawn opens up a whole new world of colour, of sights and sounds and smells. It helps us feel alive and connected to our natural environment. It’s good for you.”

Her views are echoed – so to speak – by Elaine Cochrane, Health Promotion Officer with NHS Forth Valley, who attended the training.

“We are trying to increase uptake of the John Muir Award within the Forth Valley area.  To make this as accessible as possible we need local experts to engage with the groups. 

“Several of the groups using the John Muir Award were interested in covering bats as part of their Award; however, the Bat Conservation Trust cannot afford to work with each group. 

“It therefore seemed sensible to support this training course for health workers who are running the Award, thereby increasing capacity throughout the community to deliver meaningful sessions on bats.”

Chris McGeown John Muir Award Scotland Inclusion Manager added: “It is great to see the many varied and creative ways John Muir Award Providers are connecting individuals and groups to nature, which is known to improve health and well-being.

“The training showcased the variety of activities that can be undertaken in wild places, from active and hands-on, fun and adventurous, through to scientific and theoretical research-based.”

Find out more about the connection between the John Muir Award and wellbeing.

Image credit: Daubenton bat by Wild Media

Page updated: 3 November 2016