Using gardening to help children with mental health needs

Horticultural therapy is often used to help adults with mental health needs but there has been very little work using gardening with children. Thrive was therefore delighted when the Trunkwell Garden Project was awarded funding from BBC Children in Need and the Foyle Foundation to offer gardening activities to young people with mental health needs and set up a research study to look at the benefits of such a programme.

The project began in September 2006 and helps young people aged from 12 to18 years old who are attending the Berkshire Adolescent Specialist Unit at Wokingham Hospital. Thrive therapists help improve the young people’s mental health and wellbeing through engaging them in gardening activities and by encouraging them to work with others.

So far, the young people have worked on a Kitchen Garden where they have grown vegetables from seed and then harvested and cooked the produce. Plans are also in place for a Wildlife Garden and a separate area for ‘mood and feeling’ in which plants are chosen for their colour and texture.

This innovative and successful project has received very positive comments from the young people:

“I was glad to achieve something from the group.”

“I feel happier but still fat.”

“A bit better. A chirpier front. Because gardening put my mind off things.”

“I’m feeling better now because it put my mind off things and was with friends.”