A horticultural therapy group, called Gardening for Health, set up for service users by the Eagle Recovery Project working with Better Lives, Islington’s drug and alcohol recovery service, has won a major national award.
It has been named “Psychiatric Team of the Year: Outstanding Commitment to Sustainability/Green Care” in the The Royal College of Psychiatrists awards, in recognition of its outstanding contribution to mental health.
The project was set up in early 2021 to create a space where clients could do something focussed and productive, allowing allow them to connect with their surroundings in a way that would be beneficial for their mental and physical health.
Clinicians realised that many service users didn’t have access to their own outside space, and the Better Lives team felt this was important to address. With most face-to-face groups cancelled during the COVID pandemic, the team also wanted to get something up and running that would be safe and allow clients the human contact that they had been missing.
The project used a disused area at the back of the drug and alcohol service’s day centre, and Better Lives partnered with a local third sector organisation, Eagle Recovery, and applied for funding from the NHS Charity in Camden and Islington.
The charity grant, alongside funding from Eagle, was used to employ a horticultural therapist from a local community garden to run the groups on a weekly basis. Where possible, the project used things that were being given away, including around six tonnes of garden soil that was carried into the garden bag by bag. The area was transformed into a space that could facilitate the gardening project.
Dr Adam Monsell, who works in the C&I Better Lives service, was one of those behind the group. He said: “The results have been fantastic, service users who attend the group and work on the garden, are able to return home with fresh produce, and there is something new to explore, or learn about every week. The group has demonstrated unusual stability and cohesion in comparison with other recovery groups organised by Better Lives.
He said that members of the gardening group have told the team that they look forward to the sessions and it is so popular that there is now a waiting list to join.
John Acton, Treasurer, Eagle Recovery Project, said: “Those who have been lucky enough to be part of the ongoing horticulture and growth have benefited from the regular exercise and from participating in a friendly team. The garden also represents something they have created and nurtured and the development is a useful metaphor for their own personal growth in recovery.”
He said that the project has always been supported by senior management and has produced a lovely space for service users and staff to enjoy.