The mental health charity Mind will host a garden on Main Avenue at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2022. Funded by Project Giving Back and designed by eight-time RHS Chelsea gold medal winner, Andy Sturgeon, the garden will encourage all-important conversations about mental health.
Andy’s design creates a sanctuary for conversation in the Mind Garden. A circular seating area is set within curved clay rendered walls - it’s a place to sit side-by-side and share experiences and advice, surrounded by meadow-like spaces and calming birch trees. A gravel path then arcs down to a lower level, bringing people together before the garden opens out before them.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show welcomes over 160,000 visitors each year and reaches millions more through the RHS website, BBC programmes and media coverage. The show will provide a platform for Mind to highlight the importance of reaching out and seeking mental health support, which has never been more timely. The nation is currently facing a mental health crisis. It’s been nearly two years since the pandemic started and that time has taken a brutal toll.
Mind’s research reveals that two in three adults say their mental health has worsened since the first national lockdown. However, more positively, the research also found that spending time outdoors is the most popular way to cope – three quarters (75%) of adults and young people have coped by going outside. Highlighting the clear synergy between mental health and spending time in nature.
Andy Sturgeon, said “I chose to design a garden for Mind because time in nature can transform how you feel. It’s a very tactile space. On a deep emotional level, gardens make people happy. They make people relax, and you can see people behave differently when they are in that environment. In the Mind Garden, I want people to feel embraced by the garden. I want people to feel protected when they are in it.”
In the lead-up to his garden design, Andy met with Mind volunteers who shared their experiences of mental health problems and how opening up to others, gardening and the outdoors has helped them.
Faris Khalifa, 33 from Liverpool, said “My depression and PTSD can be debilitating, and I can often have strong suicidal tendencies. I can get stuck in my own head and need someone to speak to, and just knowing I have that support and knowing that I’m loved is enough and helps.
“Gardening helped my mental health unexpectedly. I was going through a bad time and didn’t care for my mini bonsai tree. All the leaves fell off and it appeared to be dead. I felt really guilty. I still had some hope for it, so I gave it some water. Three days later, a new bright green leaf appeared, and I was overjoyed. The simple process of caring for a living thing make you feel responsible for its wellbeing. So even if I’m having a terrible week, I get myself out of bed and water those plants. Before I know it, I see the life in them and how the sun dances between their leaves and I feel glad I’m alive.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said “We’re incredibly grateful to Project Giving Back and to Andy Sturgeon for giving Mind the chance to create a garden at the iconic RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022. This is a unique and special opportunity to tell Mind’s story, which has come at a crucial time given the challenges so many of us have faced over the last couple of years.
“Wherever you do it, talking to others can make a world of difference to your mental health. It can help you feel less alone. It can help you feel understood. But we know that getting together in nature especially can help facilitate conversations and improve our wellbeing. That’s why the Mind Garden is designed to be the kind of place where people can connect, be themselves and open up about difficult experiences.”
The Mind Garden will be relocated once the show is over to a local Mind, so that conversations can continue for many years to come.
To find out more about The Mind Garden, including tips on how to connect, visit mind.org.uk/chelseaflowershow