Mental heath charity re-starts gardening therapies in bid to 'get Scots back to nature'

The Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) has re-started its therapeutic gardening services in a bid to help Scots reconnect with nature.

The charity has announced a return to services ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from Monday to May 16, with a nature theme.

SAMH operates services for people in Edinburgh in the Redhall Walled Garden, offering training in horticulture, conservation, maintenance skills, admin and life skills for people with mental health problems.

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The centre accepts self-referrals and referrals from other support services.

Service user Allan

Other centres include Grow Auchmuty in Glenrothes, Chrysalis in Dundee, and Cultivate, which has nine gardens across Aberdeenshire.

Evergreen, in Kirkcaldy, combines therapeutic horticulture and practical skills in gardening to aid clients in their recovery from mental health issues.

Service user Allan said: “I first started coming to Evergreen at the end of 2018, as I fell into a really bad area for my life back then and I began to become anxious and frightened to go out, so I sat in most of the time.

“Eventually I got referred to Evergreen and I came down and I liked it here. I liked what they were for.

“Since then I’ve come forward leaps and bounds. I’ve been meeting people and making new friends. My confidence is far greater, I’m going out, I’m able to use public transport now and I’ve even joined some other groups.”

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Dave Ross, senior horticulture practitioner at Evergreen, said: “When people come to our services they’re out in a garden, they’re out in an open space, you can see plants growing and that gives people hope.

“That’s the thing about gardening and horticulture – you’ve got to be optimistic. You sow seeds hoping they’ll grow and that can’t be underestimated.

“You notice more when you spend time outside too; whether that be birds, the weather, the plants or flowers.

“It broadens people’s horizons, and that can be a huge step for someone who have maybe gone through their life with their head down.”

Alex Cumming, assistant director of delivery and development at SAMH, said: “Over lockdown most of us have, unfortunately, had to spend more time indoors; so as restrictions ease, we’re really pleased to be able to help people to reconnect with nature and boost their wellbeing in doing so.”

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