Home Environment and health World Mental Health Day, October 10

World Mental Health Day, October 10

Why we need to teach young people the benefits of gardening

It’s no secret that I’ve had problems with depression and anxiety and that I’m convinced that gardening and speaking out about it was important in my recovery and continuing health – mental health problems have a tendency to reoccur.

This year’s theme of World Mental Health Day is Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.

Instead of being an exciting time of opportunity, for many adolescents and young people, change leads to stress, anxiety and more serious mental illnesses.

Constant pressure from social media and peer pressure means that switching off – literally – becomes very difficult and feeds into feelings of isolation, depression and apprehension.

Switching off from life’s stresses

If our schools had more resources to devote to outdoor activities like gardening, children could be taught at a young age how to switch off from life’s stresses and use those skills in later life to help alleviate negative emotions and feelings.

Imagine how much that would save the NHS in later years – a fitter, slimmer and more stress-free population. Seems like a bit of a no-brainer?

According to WHO figures, half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated.

If you have kids, even if you’re not into gardening, think of growing a plant, etc as you would painting or going to the park – a constructive, healthy activity.

Planting the seeds of good mental health

Parents and teachers, it’s up to you to plant the seeds of your children’s future health.

Other members of my family weren’t so lucky. My gran lost her three sisters to TB and her mother to cancer by she was 15.

She suffered from what was then called ‘manic depression’ (bipolar disorder) throughout her life and tried to take her own life at least once.

One of her few releases was gardening – one of the pictures above is at her much-loved garden in Dinnington, Northumberland (circa 1960, my mother and friends are on it, not her) but the stars are her famed hollyhocks, higher than the bungalow’s eaves.

My gran’s battle with ‘manic depression’

Sadly, her illness meant she could never settle anywhere – my mother ended up going to 13 different schools, showing the impact one person’s illness can have on the rest of the family.

The result of that? My mother moved into her home in 1962 and has refused to move, even though she is pretty much housebound, as it’s on a steep hill.

Instead of positive therapies, she was treated with an ever-increasing load of chemical medication with awful side effects – wider treatments just weren’t a thing then.

Nearly all families have stories to tell – you’re not alone, so seek out someone to talk to. For more information on Mental Health Day, visit www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2018

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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