Improving veterans’ mental health with horticultural therapy

Veterans Growth polytunnelHorticultural healing has been tested and proven, showing that, as well as the physical benefits, there are many mental health benefits that come from gardening and spending time in nature.

Many charities now use horticultural therapy to encourage health, well-being and rehabilitation. At one charity, Veterans’ Growth, ex-service personnel can connect with nature and learn new skills as part of the charity’s horticultural therapy approach to improving veterans’ mental health.

The charity works with veterans from the tri-services who are suffering with mental health issues, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). At the Veterans’ Growth site, set in East Sussex farmland, veterans can benefit from being outdoors in a natural environment, interacting with each other and the local community, and learning horticultural skills, such as growing their own food and learning about nutrition.

The healing power of nature is recognised to be beneficial for people with anxiety and depression, with gardening proven to lower stress levels, release mood boosting endorphins, and promote a good night’s sleep. Veterans’ Growth also aims to help those suffering from isolation by establishing long-term social relationships in the group. Group courses and one-to-one sessions offered by the charity provide Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) to participants, allowing them to gain confidence, knowledge and experience which can, for some, lead to a future hobby or career in the horticultural industry.  

Polytunnel at Veterans charityData from Northern Ireland states that 1 in 5 ex-service personnel experience mental health problems and suicide rates among veterans are twice those of the general population. Veterans’ Growth aims to provide support to every UK veteran who wants to attend and is unable to access support through other channels.

Veterans’ Growth say: “If one live is saved as a result of contact with the charity, we will call it a success. Any amount of investment will be justified if we can prevent just one suicide because we believe you cannot put a price on a life”.

Veterans Growth polytunnel harvestPremier Polytunnels are proud to sponsor the polytunnel at Veterans Growth this year. The Premier team have enjoyed watching Veterans’ Growth’s… well, growth, since the charity built its polytunnel in 2020. Seeing the participants tending their plants and relaxing in the polytunnel is a joy to see. The group have grown everything from flowers and bedding plants to butternut squash and giant pumpkins.

Petal power really is more rewarding than you may think, bringing positivity and balance into our lives. Take a look at our infographic to find out more about the mental health benefits of gardening.

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