Ecominds: Feel better outside, feel better inside
Posted Monday 24 October 2011
What do the South Bank Centre, a front garden in Fleet, and a hidden corner of Regent’s Park have in common? They’re just three of 130 projects run by groups funded by Mind through our Ecominds programme that are using green spaces to help improve mental health.
The evidence is clear: spending time in the outdoors where there’s some greenery is good for your mental health. It’s pretty obvious really; a brief walk in the park, a long stride in the countryside, gardening at home: they all have beneficial effects.
But I found more than that in these Ecominds projects. I found a commitment to humanity as well as nature, and a quiet but determined faith in the benefits of ‘ecotherapy’ as it’s often known.
The Queen Elizabeth Hall rooftop garden on London’s South Bank is a good example. Set among a sea of concrete, this island of greenery is visually stunning, yet retains a calmness for all who visit.
Ecominds funds Providence Row Housing Association, who work with some of the most vulnerable people in our society, through its Grounded Ecotherapy project. The project helps people like Paul Pulford, who helps to maintain the roof garden. He used to be homeless, had drug and mental health problems, and he told me, thanks to Ecominds funding (which pays for his salary), he’s just paid his own rent for the first time in 20 years.
The other projects I’ve visited have remarkably similar ingredients: committed staff, highly engaged people using the service, passion for the outdoors and green exercise, and a resilience-building calmness.
In Fleet, Minding the Garden, helps to maintain the gardens of the elderly and disabled. At first it was designed for people with mental health problems to do the gardening, but it soon became clear that the project has a beneficial effect on those older people who are housebound and have little contact with others.
In Regent’s Park, a BTCV-run green gym brings people with and without experience of mental health problems to create a natural wilderness in a hidden corner of a busy park in central London, which can become a home for birds, stag beetles and wild flowers.
The Ecominds programme is now in full swing. Thanks to the Big Lottery Fund and the organisations we’ve been able to fund, this simple yet powerful idea is becoming embedded across the country. Our new ‘Feel better inside, feel better inside’ poster campaign marks the start of the next stage: to make it grow so that anyone who could benefit from green exercise has easy access to it.
But as any gardener will tell you, you need time, plenty of patience and careful nurturing to ensure it grows well.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive
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