As the House of Lords’ Horticultural sector have recently opened an inquiry and subsequent report into the future of horticulture, just one of the many questions being investigated by the twelve committee members explores the affiliation between horticulture and mental health.
This inquiry will also consider the challenges, opportunities and risks faced by the horticultural sector acknowledging the potentially isolating nature of horticultural work and the bearing this can have on a professionals’ mental health, while also recognising the therapeutic opportunities that gardening can offer everyone.
At Pro Landscaper, we wanted to investigate further. Speaking with a few key members of the community and getting their opinions and perspectives on how horticulture could be contributing to the nation’s mental health, and how the industry could take this further.
Name: Dave Solly
Job title: National lead for the natural environment at The National Academy for Social Prescribing
- In your opinion, how does horticulture help provide therapy?
Therapeutic gardening or horticultural activities are common referrals for those involved in ‘social prescribing’.
Social prescribing is a way of actively connecting people to activities, information, and resources to help address an unmet health and wellbeing need or risk. It recognises the impact of wider social factors on people’s health and wellbeing such as issues like loneliness, isolation, or stress due to financial pressures or poor housing.
There is a growing body of evidence that shows that ‘prescribing’ activities in nature can help combat these issues.
- What areas of horticulture works best for therapy?
The University of Derby published a ‘Nature Connection’ handbook, which details the benefit of nature connection for health. In it they summarise the available research, concluding that ‘the closer we get to nature, the happier we are and the more worthwhile life seems.’
Both growing plants and managing spaces whether they are formal horticultural spaces or more natural settings or a combination of both (as our local parks often are) offer great opportunities for people’s health.
- Why do you believe that this type of therapy is so important?
A recent evidence review, conducted by NASP, found that nature based social prescribing increased wellbeing, happiness, resilience, and social connection, lowered levels of cardiovascular and respiratory problems and reduced risk of diabetes and obesity.
These outcomes also have the potential to save the NHS money, reducing pressure on GPs, nurses, and other community healthcare providers.
- Do you believe this issue needs to be addressed by the horticultural community?
There is lots the landscape gardeners can offer to improve access to therapeutic gardening.
Proximity to green and blue spaces is associated with higher health and wellbeing benefits but there is inequality in access to these spaces across geography, age, race, and ability.
Listening to the voices of these demographics and designing landscapes with them in mind–improving wheelchair access, for example –makes a huge difference.
- What more do you think could/should be done to address issues with mental health within the industry?
Social prescribing is – by its nature – tailored to each individual so has the potential to be beneficial to all including those struggling with mental health issues in the horticultural industry. Speak to your doctor and see if you can be referred to your local link worker.
- Could you utilise horticulture to provide an outlet for both the creator and the beholder?
Absolutely. We know that nurturing and growing plants can have a positive effect on our health and wellbeing, but so can nature connection. People who aren’t able get involved in the physical side of therapeutic gardening might find a walk in that garden just as beneficial.
- Are there any charities or organisations you would recommend?
Social Farms and Gardens have available a range of advice for people interested in gardens for therapy. [farmgarden.org.uk]