What: Post trauma mental health support through gardening
Where: London, UK
Collaborators: South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (Slam), Maudsley Charity, and horticultural project Roots and Shoots.
For 10 years the project has provided therapeutic gardening and psychotherapy to refugees and asylum seekers suffering from mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many who use the service have been affected by trafficking, torture, violence and rape, and have been referred by mental health services at the Southwark PTSD trauma unit. Prior experience that clients have in gardening varies: some are very experienced, whereas others are complete novices.
Gemma Eke, a clinical psychologist from Slam, explains how many of their service users with PTSD are in need of routine in their lives, and that involvement in a facilitated gardening project can help to provide this. Initially, clients attend a 10-week course in a group, wherein they are taught skills to manage their mental health, after which they are invited to return for a weekly gardening session. According to Gemma Eke, gardening as a tool for psychotherapy not only helps clients to ‘concentrate better’ and ‘to be present’, but also develops social relationships and trust. Asylum seekers who take part in the project often refer to powerful metaphors in relation to gardening and recovery. As one participant said: “When I see the corn growing I think, although my life has been demolished, I can still grow again.”