Planting The Seeds For Better Mental Health
A scheme which includes walking, gardening and activities to enjoy the natural environment in Merthyr Tydfil has been launched by Health Minister Edwina Hart to help improve the health and well-being of people living with mental health conditions.
Patients, carers and staff at St Tydfil's Hospital have been involved in the planning, development and construction of the therapeutic garden to maximize its benefits.
Funding for the project has come from the Big Lottery Fund's Mentro Allen programme, which offers ways for everyone to improve their health and fitness through physical activity in their local environment.
Evidence suggests that physical activity such as walking and gardening can help improve people's mental health and help to increase self-confidence, self-esteem, which will lead to be a better quality of life.
More than 90 patients have been involved in the project over the last year. Patients will also be able to access gardening projects across the county once they leave hospital.
Visiting the garden, Mrs Hart said: "I am pleased to see the results of a great deal of hard work to improve the environment, and in doing so, health and well-being.
"I understand that the new garden is a transformation on the overgrown vegetation and brambles that covered the area previously. Patients and staff have gained enormous satisfaction from the development and learning to plant hanging baskets, herbs, flowers and vegetables from seed as well as how to care for plants, how to plant seedlings and which tools to use for different jobs.
"This initiative is in line with Health Challenge Wales, which highlights simple but effective measures that can improve people's health and well-being.
"I hope the garden will give patients, visitors and staff many hours of enjoyment."
Mrs Margaret Foster, chief executive of Cwm Taf NHS Trust, which runs St. Tydfil's Hospital, said: "People admitted to the unit are encouraged to get involved with a range of therapeutic activities including the gardening. All patients, visitors and staff are encouraged to utilise the specially created garden spaces."
One of the patients benefiting from the new garden, Nathan Elias, said: "It is good to get off the ward and do some activities outside."
Another, Carl Handley added: "It is very refreshing to have a gardening group and the therapeutic actives on offer at St Tydfil's have improved greatly."
Carwyn Jones, local Mentro Allan co-ordinator, said: "Mentro Allan's main aim is to increase physical activity of those experiencing poor mental health through the local outdoor environment. St Tydfil's Hospital gardening programme has proven to be a successful activity in improving health and well-being. This activity has also been a crucial stepping stone in integrating people into community activities."
Cllr Clive Jones, the Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil Council, added: "The Mentro Allan Partnership has made an enormous contribution to the Health and Social Care agenda. It has promoted social inclusion maximizing independence and user involvement in shaping services. This display of successful multi-agency cross border networking should be shared as best practice."
Bill Upham, Deputy Director of British Trust for Conservation Volunteers Cymru, said: "We're really pleased so many people are taking part, and enjoying it so much. BTCV Cymru would really like to see this happening everywhere on NHS premises."