Absorbing and relaxing, helpful, welcoming and friendly, and giving people the chance to learn new things about nature are just some of the ways people describe the Ecotherapy programme at St Nicks. In this blog, three of our participants share their personal stories about their Ecotherapy journey, showing that we really do help people in recovery from mental ill health one plant at a time.
The journey for one of our Ecotherapy participants, Sam*, started at the TEWV NHS acute inpatient hospital, Peppermill Court, where St Nicks runs a gardening group in the ward grounds. Upon discharge, they started coming along to the Ecotherapy programme at St Nicks and are now an active member of several groups: Bearing Fruit, Discover Nature and Get Gardening.
“I enjoy learning about nature as I never learned much science before, but by spending time outside I am learning a lot. I find the absorbing nature of tasks helpful, such as untangling a young apple tree from bindweed with Bearing Fruit.
It is nice to be contributing to and feel part of something bigger at St Nicks: for example we have grown wildflowers from seed that have been planted out on the reserve. The centre is a very open, welcoming place and there is always so much going on.
I like the idea of being able to join the main practical conservation group in the future. I would also like to join the Mindful Movement group to learn helpful techniques that I could take away to other parts of daily life. The number and variety of groups at St Nicks helps give me structure and, one step at a time, build towards my ultimate goal of getting back to work.”
For people living with mental ill health, it is all too easy to feel isolated. The Ecotherapy groups at St Nicks not only help people in their recovery through connecting with nature but also provide a social opportunity and the chance to meet new people, as Lucy* highlights:
“I love the company as I live alone and often don’t see anyone during the day apart from my cat, Smudge. I was having a lot of down days and feeling very fed up, but coming here helps. It helps me to be occupied, too – I started coming to Discover Nature but now I’m part of Get Gardening too.
I love understanding nature and the world around me. It’s nice to have people who are really knowledgeable about it all because you can ask them questions. One of the things I was interested in recently was the difference between toads and frogs and I just asked someone and they explained it to me. Everyone is really helpful and friendly even if you are shy like me. If you are thinking about finding out more about Ecotherapy, I would definitely encourage people to just come down see for yourself – that’s what I did.”
There is increasing evidence that links time spent outdoors to positive effects on our health and wellbeing. The cycling group at St Nicks forms part of Green Exercise component of the Ecotherapy project and is evidence of just that, as participant Helena explains: ‘’I attended the cycling group yesterday, after not cycling for over 25 years (and even then I was not a confident cycler!) The group was so friendly, welcoming and patient. I soon got over my fears, cycled 2 miles (which felt fantastic!) and would recommend this group to anyone who wants to cycle again but lacks confidence or is a total beginner! I am dyspraxic (this is a learning disability that impacts on my co-ordination.) Gabi and Kathy are lovely and patient instructors, learning in such a safe space makes all the difference!’’
Helena has really taken to the group and shows how well the project complements and feeds into wider cycling networks and community groups in York. After only a few weeks her confidence has grown enormously and enabled her to venture out on her own: “I went out for my first solo full length cycle this weekend, it was only to return the loan bike to Cycle Heaven but it felt marvellous (such a gorgeous route) and I felt confident cycling on the roads. I think it’s because it’s a route I’ve done a few times via St Nicks and York Bike Belles groups. Thank you so much for all that you do! It was great to be able to zip out in no time at all and fit more into my morning before work, this is totally what I wanted to get from the groups!”
Nature really is good for everyone, not just for those recovering from mental ill health. If you or someone you know would like to know more about our Ecotherapy programme, why not watch the video below to see it in practice, download the latest update (Autumn 2017) and/or get in touch with Kathy on 01904 411821 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
* These names have been changed for confidentiality
Maybe you’d like to make a donation to support our Ecotherapy and wider work? If so, please visit our donations page.