This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is nature, highlighting the importance of connecting with nature for our mental wellbeing, so it seems very fitting to announce the launch of Aspens' new gardening and horticultural scheme. 

Aspens is to offer regular gardening sessions based on the concept of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture to the people we support and the wider community at our Acorns Day Services in Cornford Lane, Pembury. Learning from the Thrive scheme, we will use gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people who have ill health, disabilities or mental health conditions, using an approach called social and therapeutic horticulture (STH), where trained "horticultural therapists" work with plants and people to improve their physical and mental health. The project will support the people who access our centre to benefit from a person centred approach which uses the benefits of time in nature and being occupied in meaningful activity in a supportive social environment.

Several of our staff have recently completed training in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture with Thrive and will soon be running sessions at our site which has polytunnels, greenhouses and large allotment areas for planting crops. The wide range of horticultural activities on offer will include planning the layout of planting, clearing beds, potting on, tidying, sowing seeds, planting a wide range of vegetables and flowers, watering and taking care of plants and preparing produce to be sold at farmers markets.

Thrive project has found the benefits of a sustained and active interest in gardening are extensive and include:

  • Better physical health through exercise and learning how to use or strengthen muscles to improve mobility
  • Improved mental health through a sense of purpose and achievement
  • The opportunity to connect with others – reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion
  • Acquiring new skills to improve the chances of finding employment
  • Just feeling better for being outside, in touch with nature and in the 'great outdoors'

Christine Gray, Senior Day Service Manager at Acorns Day Services, said: "This is something I feel really passionate about. I'm so pleased we're now able to offer this horticultural programme at Aspens as I feel this will really help people who are struggling with their mental health. It's about giving people a purpose and a meaning to every day and helping them build up some confidence. When someone is feeling depressed and lost they need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I believe being involved in a project like this will give people back some sense of normality and help them out of a dark place." 

For further details of Aspens' horticultural project please contact Christine at Acorns Day Services, Tel: 01892 820 342

More information on Thrive here