Cultivating a greater sense of well-being
There is an emerging body of evidence to indicate that contact with nature provides benefits for health and wellbeing. Research shows that spending just five minutes a day looking at views dominated by trees and plants can help to reduce anxiety and anger. That seems like quite a simple way to make people feel better about themselves, especially as it is predicted by 2020 that depression will be the second most common cause of disability in the developed world (World Bank, 1993).
The Maudsley Hospital in London, wanted to create a gardening space for two of its wards that provide care and treatment for people with severe mental illnesses. Working with the Maudsley Hospital, Trees for Cities created a natural outdoor space that’s safe and accessible for patients. There are raised beds that grow fruit and vegetables, as well as apple trees, while climbing thornless blackberries and hydrangeas provide some privacy. A seating area offers patients a space to relax and socialise.
Hannah Oakenfold, a ward manager at the Maudsley Hospital was delighted at the really positive response she’d received so far and that staff and patients were already getting involved in the planting and cultivating of their edible garden. For both ward teams this has been a really exciting opportunity to offer their patients somewhere outside of the ward where they can relax, get some fresh air, play games and also to learn some new skills that they can take with them when they leave.
Trees for Cities officially opened the horticultural therapy garden at the Maudsley Hospital during London Tree Week 2016 and were privileged to have Intelligent Health CEO, Dr William Bird attend and speak about the health benefits of communal gardens. Here’s what he had to say about the garden:
“It was fantastic to see the horticultural therapy garden at the Maudsley. It is a great example of a community space where patients and staff can work together with nature. Participating in horticulture has so many benefits; getting people active in green spaces not only improves health and wellbeing, it also saves public money and improves our environment.”
Through delivery of the project at the Maudsley hospital, Trees for Cities has witnessed the powerful impact that comes from creating a place, not just a space. Building on the success and momentum of this horticulture therapy garden project, we will continue to work in partnership with the Maudsley Hospital to transform most of the open public green space running through the centre of the hospital campus into vibrant green areas for patients, staff and the local community to relax, socialise, engage with nature and enjoy a variety of health and well-being activities. As well as benefitting patients and staff, the project aims to compliment Maudsley’s wider objective to build better links with the local community.
The garden is a functional place, which provides a purpose for patients and staff to visit and undertake tasks, building confidence and self-esteem; a reason to go outdoors. We are all familiar with hospital grounds which are often unimaginative at best; in our cities – where land is a precious resource – we should ensure that these open spaces are utilised to their full potential for health.
Trees for Cities is calling for planners to integrate green infrastructure into the healthcare setting, not only to benefit patient health, but as a resource to deliver outdoor therapy and activities, and provide a sense of purpose for the hospital community to get outdoors and get healthy.