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Understanding your prescription

While not a cure for mental illness, spending time outside has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and can be helpful for managing other symptoms associated with mental illness. One contributor to this are phytoncides, organic compounds that are released into the air by plants like oak, cedar, and pine trees. When humans inhale these compounds it lowers their blood pressure. Mycobacterium vaccae is another compound found in soil that triggers a serotonin release which in turn lowers anxiety levels.

For this reason, Nature Rx, in partnership with Ithaca College Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness, will be prescribing time outside as part of their treatment toolbox for mental health care. IC recognizes nature as a valuable asset for developing lifelong support skills for mental and physical wellness.

In this setting, licensed providers will customize care to the needs of the patient and consider prescriptions of experiences in nature as a part of their treatment plan.  When you receive your prescription you will likely be given a nature experience suggestion, that will recommend a frequency of time spent outside and a timeline for when outdoor activities should be completed. You will also be given resources to help you get the most out of your experience. Upon the next clinician visit, a professional from the Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness will discuss this prescription with you and determine if it was helpful or if another prescription should be considered.


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What if I need more help?

If you feel you need more than what Nature Rx programming can offer or if your prescription isn’t working for you, speak with your clinician about trying something else. It's important that you reach out if you feel you are struggling. Don’t hesitate to ask about other options.

Do I have to follow my Nature Rx prescription?

The prescription is a recommendation. It could be helpful for you to try it out, but there are no consequences for not following it completely or at all.

How do I follow/fill a Nature Rx prescription?

Your prescription will likely include a nature experience suggestion that will recommend an amount of time you should spend outside. To follow your prescription all you need to do is spend your recommended amount of time outside in a green space doing something relaxing. You could fulfill this time by participating in a Nature Rx event, picking an activity from our list of practices, or doing an activity you enjoy like reading, drawing, writing, knitting, or simply daydreaming. To get the most out of your time, try not to look at your phone or think about work. Just be in the moment.

Who is issuing Nature Rx prescriptions?

Prescription will only be issued by licensed clinicians, but Nature Rx programming and resources are available to anyone.

Is Nature Rx a replacement for medication or therapy?

No. if you are currently taking medication or going to therapy you should continue to do so. Nature Rx programming is intended as a tool to help you manage mental health symptoms and lower stress levels and is not a substitute for medication or therapy.

How does Nature Rx work/help?

Spending time outside, especially in green spaces, has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety as well as improve concentration. This connection between stress relief and being outside is called restoration theory. In 2003 a study on restoration theory had participants take walks through nature reserves and urban areas. The participants who walked through natural environments had lower blood pressure at the end of their walks than the urban group and performed better on concentration tests.Another theory for why nature has a relaxing effect on people involves compounds from soil and plants that we inhale when we are outside. Phytoncides are organic compounds released by plants like oak, cedar, and pine trees that lower blood pressure and Mycobacterium is a bacterial compound found in soil that triggers a serotonin release, which in turn lowers anxiety levels.

Why is student mental health declining?

There is no definitive answer as to why student mental health is declining, but it is suspected that increased academic pressure, pressure from parents, an increased dependence on technology, and social isolation due to pandemic are contributing factors.

Is student mental health getting worse?

In short, yes. Research has shown a decline in student mental health in recent decades. This is possibly because people are becoming more aware of mental health as a topic and are taking mental illness more seriously. However, current trends are still concerning. In 2009 it was reported that 9.3% of college students had anxiety; by 2015 this number grew to 14.9% of students. Currently it is estimated that between 30-50% of college students have experienced mental illness.

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