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Garden renovation boosts mental wellbeing

Occupational therapists and service users at Essex Partnership University NHS Trust are being encouraged to become green fingered and take part in a gardening project to renovate the green space at Heath Close, Billericay.

The Specialist Community Forensic Team (SCFT) at Heath Close, which offers support to service users in the community with mental health issues, have invited their service users to help transform the overgrown and unkempt garden to grow fruit and vegetables and create a relaxing space.

The garden was a surprise to the team who moved into the building just over two years ago and they saw this as an opportunity to engage service users in a meaningful project who have an interest in horticulture.

One of the service users said: “It makes me feel good, I enjoy planting plants. It keeps me calm and relaxed. I enjoy other people’s company and I like to see all the hard work everyone has put into the project.”

Another service user said: “I enjoy gardening and enjoy time spent with the service users, staff and students. I love coming here as everyone is really friendly and we all work together.”


Senior occupational therapist Kelly Burgess, who runs the weekly gardening group, said: “We were really surprised when we realised we had the garden space, but the building hadn’t been used for five years and the garden was completely overgrown.

“We wanted to do something with the garden to create a relaxing area not only for our service users but also staff, who would benefit from the garden by being able to have a relaxing area for breaks and socialising outside of the office.

“The occupational therapists thought it would be a great opportunity to get everyone involved and so set up a weekly gardening group with our service users, who gain a sense of satisfaction from helping to transform the garden back to its original state.”

After making a start on transforming the garden, the team realised the garden had previously won the King’s Fund for Enhancing a Natural Environment and saw it as an opportunity to return the garden to its original therapeutic purpose and its former glory.

Currently the gardening project is a work in progress with the group, which consists of five service users and two members of staff, hoping to complete it by 2023.

Those involved in the project are learning about biodiversity including bug hotels, handmade bird boxes and composting and so far the team have started to grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and trees.

Kelly added: “This ongoing project will help support staff and service users’ wellbeing where they can enjoy having a quiet and safe space. This project invites different skills and interests from service users including, horticulture, woodwork, craft and landscaping.

“I have noticed many benefits to service users including improved psychological well-being, social stimulation, the educational aspect, developing their interests, building confidence and physical activity, and the access to fresh air.

“Our service users are working as a team to improve this space and although the end target is to finish the project by 2023, we all have an understanding that this could be continually developed and maintained for years to come.”


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