GPs Can Now Refer Patients to New Therapy Gardens
Posted on May 6, 2019 by Devon Metcalfe
It’s long been thought that gardening can greatly benefit those who suffer with mental health problems. Now it’s emerged that doctors plan to put this to the test. They’ll refer struggling patients to new so-called ‘therapy gardens’, a scheme funded by the Royal Horticultural Society. Doctors have teamed up with the plant charity for a pilot scheme that aims to assist those with mental health issues and dementia.
What is Mental Health Gardening Therapy?
Mental health gardening therapy is all about creating a positive mindset through gardening activities. Not only will it help people suffering from depression and anxiety get outdoors, but it will also encourage them to engage in some light exercise. Social activities, exercise and spending time in nature are all suggested to be key factors in helping patients with mental health issues. Those attending the scheme will be growing herbs in raised beds that can then be used to make delicious, calming teas like mint, jasmine and liquorice.
The Benefits to Patients
- Boosting the amount of exercise they do
- Allowing them to clear their minds with reflection and meditation
- Helping them find companionship and support
- Getting them motivated to get outside
- Giving them a sense of purpose
Igniting Your Senses
Sensory gardens have proven to be a hit with patients in the past. Therefore, this new scheme focuses on ways the garden can engage their senses. Smells are obviously a huge part of tending to a garden. Depending on which flowers you plant, you can create an array of beautiful scents whenever you step outdoors.
However, gardening can also ignite other senses. Such as:
- Taste through eating homegrown fruits and vegetables.
- Touch from planting a variety of flowers and plants.
- Sound from trees and leaves blowing in the wind while you relax on your outdoor furniture.
The Chief Horticulturist at the RHS described how gardens can be tweaked to serve a specific purpose, engaging different senses depending on the patient’s needs.
The Psychology Behind It
Ministers have now urged GPs to prescribe creative hobbies. Activities such as arts & crafts and even dance classes can help their health. However, mental health gardening therapy is frequently cited as one of the best means of de-stressing.
Professor Tim Kendall of NHS England explains, “Gardening is good for our mental health as it offers physical exercise, which improves depression and anxiety, and also helps people find companionship and support. This is why the NHS is supporting social prescribing schemes which include gardening. To help people stay fit and healthy in ways that go beyond pills and medical procedures.”
Is There Proof That it Helps?
Research from trials have found that doctors who refer patients to such activities are seeing a dramatic 25% decrease in visits to accident and emergency units. This is an unlikely but highly appreciated correlation between the benefits to the NHS and benefits to patients. What’s more, the scheme has clearly been a success since it’s launch last year. Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust were lucky recipients of a Chelsea garden to help patients. It’s hoped that mental health gardening therapy will be rolled out to patients across the UK. This can combat the growing issues with effectively treating those with mental health problems.
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