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Every person attending an STH programme will have some degree of mental health concerns regardless of whether the primary goal of the programme is to address such concerns. Some STH programme will focus specifically on mental health but an STH Practitioner working in any setting should be able to recognise psychological concerns – mental health will also be recognised and addressed in an appropriate manner in programmes with goals and objectives that are vocational or physical in nature.

STH promotes improved mental health through:

  • ­Increased emotional wellbeing - hope, resilience, confidence, self-esteem
  • ­Reduced stress
  • ­Reduced depression and anxiety
  • ­Decreased loneliness and isolation

STH has also been shown to aid the management, stabilisation and improvement in many mental health conditions and to provide relief from dementia symptoms.

The THSG has produced a document that explores in more detail how gardening activities can be tailored to meet the needs of people with different levels of mental il-health.

In January 2022, Hung-Ming Tu published the first meta-analysis of Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) to provide critical evidence that ‘horticultural therapy’ (HT) has a positive effect on mental health. A total of 1,056 records were searched, and 18 eligible studies were extracted. The meta-analysis showed that the HT experimental groups had a significant and positive impact on mental health compared with the control groups (effect size = 0.55). The included studies had no negative effects on mental health.

The study concluded that:

  • HT should be considered a useful therapy to be integrated in healthcare settings by horticultural therapists to improve mental health.
  • In the HT program, indoor and outdoor plant activities, plant-related arts, crafts and other activities were common interventions to improve specific mental health problems through at least eight sessions.

Effect of horticultural therapy on mental health: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials – Hung-Ming Tu, 2022 – JPMHN.2022. 29(4):603-615