A Welsh charity that offers gardening as therapy is forecasting a wave of mental health problems as the nation continues to grapple with Covid-19.
Growing Space is supported by the National Lottery Community Fund which awarded a grant of £230,494 in 2017 for a three-year project. The charity works with hospitals right across Gwent and encourages those who are struggling with their mental health to try horticultural therapy. It works with those who have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act as well as people from the community who need support.
Bill Upham, Growing Space CEO, said: “Across Gwent, the hospitals have great grounds and together we grow produce and flowers and we build polytunnels so that even on the wettest day, we can carry on.
“We know people who would starve themselves because they have been so scared to go to the shops. Some have been so terrified to collect their medicines that they have been having suicidal thoughts. We have been delivering food and medicines and because we couldn’t deliver our normal activity sessions, we have been giving out window boxes and art and craft packs so that our participants could build a bird box or grow something.
“It’s a wave of poor mental health”
“With people losing loved ones, losing their jobs, not receiving essential treatment, getting into debt – it’s a wave of poor mental health that we’re facing. Mental health services are under a lot of strain because of the pressures of Coronavirus so we have stepped in to support in any way we can.
“People come to us with little or no self-esteem. They may be in debt or suffering from drugs or alcohol dependency. Many come to us having lived in a very sedentary or socially isolated way for years.”
Growing Space also helps manage The Orchard Garden at the National Trust’s Tredegar House, providing horticultural therapy to 50 or 60 people every week.
Woodworking and cookery classes
Over the years, Growing Space has evolved and now also offers woodworking and cookery classes, making the most of the garden produce. It has a café, two shops and two furniture recycling centres.
John Rose, Director Wales for The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We owe a huge thank you to National Lottery players who support and contribute to projects like Growing Space every time they play. Since April this year we’ve awarded over £15m to charities and communities across Wales who are saving lives
and offering hope to many those affected by the pandemic.”
Michelle Beddoe, 52, struggled for several years before she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010. She said: “My psychiatrist suggested I get involved with Growing Space as gardening is my former occupation. I go to Tredegar House on my day off and it gives me structure; a reason to get up and get out. It’s been a lifeline – taking cuttings, potting on – a really inclusive and gentle environment where no one minds if you’re having an off
day. You feel very safe there. I love the social aspect too – it is always the highlight of my week.”