Nova Scotia Hospital clients are finding therapy through gardening.
Back to our Roots in Dartmouth provides a weekly session for the withdrawal management group where they can tend to their own crop and watch it grow.
The garden is one of 72 charities in Canada that has received a grant from Bell Let’s Talk in 2016, thanks to their work with mental health initiatives.
On Wednesday, Jan. 25, every time the hashtag #BellLetsTalk is used in a call, text, tweet, or Facebook post, the company will donate 5¢ towards a mental health initiative in Canada.
Hillary Lindsay, project coordinator for Back to our Roots Garden, says teaming the garden up with the hospital wasn’t a part of the initial plan but “quickly become a totally obvious and natural thing to do.”
Lindsay found that there was a connection between mental health, community and food.
Andrea Leahey, addictions recreation therapist at the N.S. Mental Health Foundation, says the clients love going outside and “reconnecting with who they used to be” while being a part of a project. “It can be very therapeutic for them,” she adds.
Leahey adds that her group hasn’t often have time for relaxing activities “or have the resources for it.” She says that Back to our Roots gives them the opportunity to “reengage their focus and learn time management,” and get out of the “stifling and confining” unit space.
Leahey and her weekly gardening group are educated on how to harvest food together and can nibble on some fresh and organic treats as they go. Their crop goes back to the Nova Scotia Hospital and is used for the withdrawal management cooking class. Leahey says, “a healthy body is a healthy mind,” and it helps that the clients “feel involved in a growth process. They are growing with the garden.”
She avoids using the term “patients,” as she says it encourages the stigma associated with mental health clients. Bell Let’s Talk has worked for six years to break this stigma associated with mental illness.
Their studies say that only one in five people affected by a mental illness will come forward and get help.
Isabelle Boulet, a member of Bell’s media team, says that recipients of the grant are “selected based on their support for projects that improve access to mental health supports and services.”
Mary Deacon, chair of Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative, personally delivered the $10,000 cheque to Back to our Roots to help strengthen the program.
Hillary Lindsay says Bell’s grant helped the garden “to integrate more with the hospital.”
“This is good work and ideally, I would like my volunteers to be paid for it,” she says.
Lindsay says that the next step with the hospital is hiring those “who are dealing with mental health issues” and having them directly working with Back to Our Roots’ market garden. This is “a matter of receiving another grant,” to comfortably pay for compost, tools and a living wage.
“This program is working for the clients,” says Lindsay. “I see it all the time.”