Gardening is great for your mental health and wellbeing, helping to reduce stress, boost mood and improve overall physical fitness.
At Lee Mill Hospital, a low-secure mental health unit provided by Livewell Southwest for men experiencing complex, long-standing mental health problems, gardening forms a very beneficial part of the holistic care offered by the multidisciplinary team.
The experienced team working at Lee Mill includes consultant psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health and learning disability nurses, healthcare assistance, occupational therapists, technical instructors, social inclusion workers and pharmacists.
The occupational therapy team offer a variety of different therapeutic interventions including group work such as a Feel Good communal cooking group, listening parties where everyone gets together to appreciate music, and budgeting and life skills, alongside individual work including exercise, woodwork, gardening and plumbing skills. Working closely with the nursing team, their primary role within the team is to offer structure and routine to the people using the service, as well as helping people to get active and prepared for moving on into the community.
Occupational Therapist Mat Parry, said: “Gardening is just one of the activities on offer at Lee Mill, but due to the restrictions placed on us all by the coronavirus pandemic which has meant that our service users haven’t been able to use public spaces as much as they would have, our garden projects have really flourished.”
Technical Instructor Dave Clements, said: “Gardening forms part of our daily role – we check and water the plants in the greenhouse and on the grounds, and feed the chickens who produce two to four eggs a day.”
Mat added: “There are also various opportunities during the week for groups to use the outside space in order to maintain the garden areas, and some service users have this allocated as part of their therapeutic programme due to having an interest in horticulture or conservation work.”
Both agree that the people they work with appear happier after engaging in some form of outdoor activity.
“It really boosts self-esteem, giving a sense of pride and achievement. We’ve noticed that the people who participate and spend time in the garden area tend to have more motivation, increased positivity, and in lots of cases this has also helped them when it comes time for them to move on from the unit,” Dave added.
And Mat agreed saying: “I think the pride people have in their work once they see results is wonderful.
“While the physical aspects of carrying out garden tasks can sometimes be challenging, following the progress of your work and seeing things grow maintains interest and motivation.
“As a team it’s pleasing to see the hard work of our service users and the Technical Instructors, Dave Clements and Graham Nicholls, rewarded.
“The successful planting and growing of produce has also allowed us to raise money for future projects and to feed our chickens.
“I’d like to thank Graham and Dave for their hard work and the dedication they continue to show. Without them our gardens, greenhouse and chicken care wouldn’t be possible.”