By Liana Chase
I have just finished six months of fieldwork in Devon and already I am missing the ocean air and the stark beauty of Dartmoor. Working in a local POD team in Devon for this period has been eye-opening on multiple levels. On one hand, I have been in awe of the way people engage with the natural environment as a powerful therapeutic resource. My POD network meetings were full of references to cold water swimming, long walks on the moor, and hikes along coastal footpaths; helping me to see more clearly what I had been missing with years of city living.
On the other hand, I was surprised to learn that despite this natural richness Devon possesses pockets of severe socioeconomic deprivation. In fact, it includes some of the most deprived local authority areas in England, where residents face high rates of exposure to adversity and trauma, complex and long-term health conditions, and poor health outcomes. I was moved by stories shared with me of intergenerational struggles with poverty and the suffering this has engendered.
As I transition out of fieldwork mode to begin data analysis, I am left feeling deeply humbled by my time working with frontline clinicians and peer support workers delivering POD in the NHS. Over the last 18 months I have been amazed not only by the immense difficulty of this work, but also by the strength and dedication of colleagues who are continually striving to do it better. I’m looking forward to producing research outputs that spread the word about their efforts and perspectives.