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Digging Out Of Depression

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 Digging Out Of Depression

An interesting concept reported by the BBC’s Jane Elliot on methods surrounding improving one’s mental health.

Her report begins by introducing her audience to Julian Holland. She argues that Holland had struggled to feel comfortable in social settings as a consequence of a debilitating lack of self-confidence.

Elliot adds that for a long time Julian was reluctant to even come out of his house, the state of his home or his own individual appearance had little to no impact on the man, such was his state of mind.

Indeed twelve months ago, he suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalised for three weeks.

With that in mind, today Holland is feeling much better, he puts this improvement down to the lottery funded special gardening project - Twigs (Therapeutic Gardening Work in Swindon). It has been stated that this project has given him a new purpose in life.

Ostensibly, there is a lot more to the project other than digging, Holland states, “there’s a great community spirit here; everyone is treated as a person not as an illness,” Hence than approach adopted is based on holistic principles.

In addition, he adds, “Before I came to Twigs I struggled to motivate myself even to leave the house in the mornings, but now I get real pleasure from tasks like the willow weaving, which really helps with my depression.”

“I have suffered from depression for about 10 years off and on; I get good days and bad days.”

“I basically could not function before and would wake up with night sweats panic attacks etc.”

“I did not want to go out, and I just could not be bothered to do anything.”

Mr Holland from Swindon, now 45, has indicated that the fantastic support from his GP was crucial, he says that he was indeed prescribed anti-depressants, essentially though the gardening gave him the lift that he needed ‘a vital boost’.

Julian says, “You have your doctor for your mental health support and she is great and I come to Twigs for a sense of achievement, I go twice a week and do varied work from woodworking to potting up, cutting grass, working on the flowerbeds, weeding, willow weaving, and working on the allotments.”

“Everyone using Twigs is in the same boat and they are all extremely supportive.”

“I like working outside, I can’t do an office job. Here there is no pressure on you to do one particular thing; you just pick what you want to do.”

“I feel that I am doing something useful such as re-potting a whole flower bed.”

Richard Allwood, horticultural therapist at the gardening charity Thrive, said gardening therapy had been used to help with a variety of conditions.

“We have had people come to us with strokes, those who have depression and car crashes,” he said.

Further support of the therapy come from Dr Cosmo Hallstrom, a psychiatrist in Chelsea and member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said gardening provides distraction therapy, vital in helping deal with depression.

“If I was seeing you in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) I might say, ‘Let’s look at three things you enjoy doing,’ and let’s say you say one of them is gardening, I would then say, ‘OK let’s do one hour’s gardening,” he said.

“CBT is a modern form of psychological therapy dealing with the here and now as opposed to your past experiences looking at thinking and behaviour and can include all manor of techniques.”

“It is a treatment of proven benefit.”

“When you get depressed you stop doing things and get isolated which makes you more depressed. The theory is that if you do pleasurable things you will in time get better.”

“Gardening is a pleasurable activity and it focuses you away from thinking about your health problems.”

“Why gardening and not running? Well I think at first it is a bit much doing things that are too physical. It is important to find something you enjoy.”

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