Nature on prescription? Exeter shows the world how

Researchers at Exeter University teamed up with Scriberia to create an infographic and illustrated handbook that would make the best research on nature-based treatments for common mental health issues more accessible to those with the power to prescribe them.

Many of us developed a fresh appreciation for the great outdoors during recent periods of lockdown, with the benefit of a daily walk in woods, fields, forests and green spaces playing a vital role in maintaining our wellbeing. But researchers at the University of Exeter believed that, despite a wealth of supportive evidence, more needed to be done to support providers of nature-based interventions that target common mental health conditions, and that are delivered through social prescribing schemes.

They came to Scriberia with the aim of creating the “Nature on Prescription” mental health handbook; a richly-illustrated guide that would provide clear and evidence-based suggestions for leveraging the power of the natural world in supporting people’s mental health.

“We knew an academic paper wasn’t the way to communicate this to people, and neither was a dense chunk of text,” says Dr Rebecca Lovell. 

“It’s aimed at people who have experience with mental health provision as well as those who are less experienced, and perhaps aren’t so familiar with what this evidence looks like. We needed an eye-catching design, which drew people in and gave the key components of what we were trying to communicate.”


The project entailed creating an infographic, explaining the core functions of Nature on Prescription and how it might work in practice. Within this, we visualised some of the many mental health benefits of stepping into nature, and some of the different activities available. As the star asset of their handbook, it provided the project with a strong - and, we’ve got to say, gorgeous - visual identity, which was echoed in other illustrations throughout the handbook.

And, as we say so often, the process of creating the picture proved invaluable in helping to clarify their message, as Dr Harriet Hunt explains: “I found the structure of this process immensely helpful to nail down the most important things we wanted to convey. It helped us tighten our focus and agree on exactly what those key points were.”

Dr Lovell adds: “We wanted to reflect diversity in the illustration, too. And the Scriberia team knew just how to achieve that - they were full of suggestions for us, and made it very clear that we were in safe hands. Despite giving a very broad brief, they were able to pick it up and take it to exactly where it needed to go.”

“Receiving the final illustration was so exciting,” says Dr Hunt. “You could hear squeals as everyone spotted their favourite part. For me, the magic is in the little details: the squirrels, the nuts, the dragonfly! It really is incredible how Donatella managed to capture and condense so much gorgeousness into one tiny visual concept. The skill was absolutely phenomenal!

“Since launching, the handbook has done really well. We’ve made it a completely free resource; we're already at 1200 downloads, but I know that number is probably an underestimate because, once downloaded, people are sharing it time and again with their own networks. Just the other day, a provider commented: ‘Great illustrations! So much better than reams of text!’. It really does engage people in a fresh way."

An eye-catching visual can really draw people into an otherwise fairly dry topic, and that has massive value for communicating our research and enhancing our reach. I’d love to work with Scriberia again, and hope to very soon!

Dr Rebecca Lovell, Nature on Prescription, Exeter University

Dr Lovell adds: “The feedback has been universally positive. We've already seen a whole range of people using the handbook to guide some of their social prescribing. And I do believe that the pictures and the imagery are helping that happen. It’s being used globally: in 34 countries so far. Many of those downloads are coming from universities and government departments in countries we’d be expecting to reach like New Zealand, but also in countries like Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Taiwan, too.

“I’ve learned that an eye-catching visual can really draw people into an otherwise fairly dry topic, and that has massive value for communicating the research and enhancing our reach. I’d love to work with Scriberia again, and hope to very soon!”

The Nature on Prescription handbook is free to download here:

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