Allotment is helping people recover mental health

This story was published 19 September 2018

Growing and tending vegetables and flowers on a purpose-designed allotment is helping people in the Selby area to recover their mental health.

people working on the allotment

The allotment has been rented by North Yorkshire County Council’s Selby Community Recovery Mental Health Team from Selby Town Council. The plot had not been used for several years, so team members had a big job on their hands to clear the site.

They set to work, clearing weeds and debris, but what really made the difference was help from Nomenca, a construction company that has been known to support community ventures in the past. Nomenca agreed to help after an approach by the team and brought in workers and machinery in summer to clear and level the site, put in a path and patio and add six raised beds to the one the team had created.

Community Recovery Mental Health Team member Wendy Gill said: “The amount of work Nomenca did for us in four days was unimaginable. We would not have been able to do that without their support. We could not get to parts of the allotment because it was five feet high in weeds. The raised beds are particularly useful, being at an easy height for people to work on.”

The team discusses with clients how they want to use the allotment and is guided by them in decisions about what they would like to plant and what jobs need to be done. Currently, between three and five people attend each Tuesday morning session for group or one-to-one support. The team raised funds to buy equipment for the allotment and tools were donated by the Tool Shed Project, which works with prisoners to repair broken tools and reuse them.

Although the allotment hasn’t had a full growing year, the clients have planted a potato crop, tomatoes, peas, courgettes, lettuce, rocket and spinach and, more recently, carrots and, for Halloween, pumpkins. Soon they will plant winter cabbage and plan more extensive planting next year. They have also planted apple and cherry trees and plan a sensory garden.

County Councillor Michael Harrison, Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health Integration, said: “Helping people to improve and maintain good mental health is a priority for the County Council, along with its NHS and community partners, and we have protected and invested in social care mental health services.

“The benefits of gardening for mental health and wellbeing are well-established. Outdoor activities have been shown to help to relieve stress and help manage mental ill-health. I’m sure the allotment will offer significant therapeutic value, supporting people in their recovery, offering a social network and opportunities to create and to relax.”

Richard Webb, the County Council’s Corporate Director of Health and Adult Services, visited the allotment on Friday (14 September) to see the work being done.

He said: “Improving mental health is one of my passions. One in four of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives. It’s great to see what something like an allotment can do to help people take more control of their mental health and feel better for doing so. It’s been great to be here in Selby, talking with everyone involved.”

Nomenca Managing Director Andy Langman said: “It was an absolute pleasure to be able to help out with this project. The whole Nomenca team present thoroughly enjoyed spending their time on such a worthwhile cause. I’m hoping that this will encourage other businesses to also help out where they can, too.”

Clients have said that they appreciate having a calm space that they can enjoy without judgement or pressure. They also value the opportunity to speak to people who have had similar experiences. They have also said they like the collaborative approach to the allotment and the ability for them to take responsibility for it.

The Community Recovery Mental Health Team works in partnership with the Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust (South West Community Mental Health Team, or CMHT) and takes referrals from the CMHT to provide social care support for people with long-term mental health conditions, dealing with such issues as social isolation, anxiety and depression with the additional aim of providing meaningful activity for the people involved.