Anyone who looks after their own garden or allotment could have told us that, but now significant research shows that gardening is one of the best ‘green care’ therapies for supporting and improving mental health and can benefit everyone and all ages. It is becoming increasingly recognised for its contribution to maintaining wellbeing in older and vulnerable groups.
The numerous benefits from gardening for mental health include a reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms and increased self-esteem and confidence, social contact and inclusion; as well as a sense of belonging and personal achievement. The joy of gardening is that it is so adaptable, and some form of gardening will be familiar to people from almost any background.
Both STH programmes and community gardens can be natural partners for Social Prescribing (in both senses of the word!) but referrals are still not widespread. One of the prerequisites is a consistent way of assessing and matching service users’ needs to what an individual project can provide especially in terms of mental health support. And this is especially true for community gardens where the onus would fall on other gardeners and volunteers.
Garden Therapy programmes are particularly suitable for organisations such as schools, retirement and dementia care, hospice day therapy and healthcare providers and charities supporting people with, or at risk of, poor mental health. Huge benefits can be achieved without the need for a specially designed garden, so you can start straight away, even indoors.
What I can do to help:
- Design seasonal activities tailored to the needs and capabilities of your participants
- Provide advice & support for staff or volunteers to run activities and extend the programme ‘in-house’
- Advise on how best to take advantage of your facilities with a risk assessment
- Establish suitable measures of the benefits
Community Gardens have great scope for supporting local people by reducing social isolation, introducing newbies to the joys of gardening and relieving stress in nature. Understanding more about how gardening can improve wellbeing can maximise the benefits for the people who attend without turning it into a full blown therapy project.
What I can do to help:
- All-comers talk on Gardening for Wellbeing
- Workshop to define aims, potential, practicalities and planning to create a wellbeing programme in the garden
- Gathering and reporting feedback to support development and funding bids