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  • Writer's pictureTom Robinson

“My doctor prescribed rambling for lockdown anxiety”: how social prescribing can promote well-being

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

There was a nice story on the BBC News page a couple of weeks ago, involving a widower who was prescribed rambling for his anxiety in lockdown.

Jim Snodgrass who is 84, and from South Queensferry in Edinburgh, broke down when suffering from anxiety during the first lockdown in March 2020.

Jim was surprised when Dr Victor Jack didn’t give him any pills but instead gave him the number for the Ramblers, and he has now walked over 2,000 miles in a year.

In the article Jim said:

“Dr Jack is an amazing man as he has saved me from my nerves in the lockdowns with this idea of his.”

Social prescribing

Doctors are now beginning to use social prescribing as a way of helping people’s mental health rather than just prescribing drugs, and I think that’s a really good thing.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have had an absolute nightmare time with the psychiatric medications; I’ve had to endure some horrific side effects, failures and withdrawal problems so if you can get better without them then that is exactly what you should do.

In Jim’s case his anxiety was made worse by the isolation of lockdown, and his doctor recognised that although he was benefiting from the physical side of walking, he wasn’t benefiting from the social aspect.

By joining the Ramblers he’s been able to benefit from both aspects and his anxiety has improved as a result.

The importance of mental health education

This story highlights the importance of understanding one’s own condition and the doctor / patient relationship.

For me, joining the Ramblers would never have helped me because I had a crippling illness and didn’t have the energy to get out of bed.

People like me need medical intervention that works and comes with minimal side effects (like the treatment I’ve now found), afterwards, when their condition has improved and their mood is more stable, then they can help themselves through rambling and other forms of social prescribing.

However, Jim has been able to conquer his anxiety through social prescribing alone, and through doing that he’s avoided the side effects, withdrawals, and potential for addiction with the current psychiatric drugs. I’m so pleased that he’s been able to do this.

Dr Jack recognised that social prescribing was the right avenue for Jim, but this only happened because he took the time to get to know his individual situation and circumstances.

I think the focus when it comes to mental health (well-being) and mental illness should move towards a more holistic approach in the future where the emphasis is on treating the whole person, rather than just the illness or distress.

Unfortunately, I know that this is very unlikely to happen since no NHS doctor has ever tried to understand my situation or find out who I am as a person in the many years that I’ve been ill, and prescriptions for psychiatric drugs are now at their highest ever rates.

Fortunately for me, I have a deep inner strength that I’ve been able to draw from and that has meant that I’ve been able to deal with all of the trauma involved in my psychiatric safari and I’ve come out the other side (relatively) unscathed, but for others I know that’s not going to be possible.

A combination of everything

There is no one answer when it comes to mental health/illness recovery because everyone is different and should therefore be treated that way.

Even though I’ve benefitted enormously from the thyroid treatment that basically saved my life, I have also had to combine other survival and recovery strategies to get to where I am today.

I’ve had to make sacrifices like giving up my career, quitting alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, and I’ve had to work really hard on getting my confidence back through studying and challenging my own mind.

There was also a lot of soul searching, retrospection, self-analysis and persistence that went into the mixture too. It’s never as simple as taking a pill and getting better when it comes to mental illness - it’s so much more complicated than that.

Being the expert of yourself

Now that I am finally better, I am taking so much pleasure from walking in nature, and I am finding it such a tonic for my mental well-being.

Personally, I prefer to be alone and be at one with nature when I go walking, which just emphasises the importance of being the ‘expert of yourself’ and doing what’s right for you individually.

The road to recovery is a different experience for each individual and we must all learn to be able to identify what is right for ourselves rather than relying solely on advice and suggestions from others.

If you would like to read the article from the BBC News page, then you can find it here.

I am now taking a few days off from the blog so that I can have a rest over the bank holiday.

Thank you so much for the continued messages of support.

Please keep sharing me so that I can help others, and please keep the suggestions for posts and discussion points coming!

Thanks for reading,

Speak to you soon,


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