Greenhouse project can nurture mental health, experts say

Published On May 16, 2018 | By Christina Zisko | News

The new greenhouse on the grounds of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (Catherine Zahn/Twitter)

Christina Zisko

Cultivating a green thumb might just be helpful in managing addiction, according to a local expert.

The new greenhouse on the grounds of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health helps to take the therapeutic benefits of gardening and apply them to treating those suffering from addiction.

“Addiction is always a symptom of something else,” said Seth Fletcher, the Director of Addiction Services at the Canadian Centre for Addiction.

“Things like horticulture therapy can help by addressing the underlying issue directly. People may find, for example, if someone had issues with anxiety. Some people may find that it is soothing to engage in that process of nurturing something. It allows time for reflection and meditation.”

Different activities resonate with different people and the goal is to find what makes patients happy.

“When people tend to feel good, they tend not to look for substances to try and feel good,” Fletcher said.

The new greenhouse was built to replace aging infrastructure, Janet Mawhinney, Director of Community Engagement for CAMH, told Humber News on Wednesday.

“It’s just so much better. It’s wheelchair and scooter accessible. It’s heated. It’s got irrigation,” said Mawhinney. “We’ll be able to expand programming to all year round.”

Gardening can also benefit mental health through a feeling of community.

“One of the underlying factors that often exacerbates people’s mental health is being disconnected. Not having a community support and also not being connected to the natural environment,” said Angel Beyde, of Parkdale Green Thumb Enterprises.

The more people are outside in fresh air, in nature, touching soil, touching plants, it provides a short term immediate endorphin boost –¬†Angel Beyde, Parkdale Green Thumb Enterprises

A large portion of the Parkdale Green Thumb landscaping crew are CAMH clients, said Beyde. When people are ready to go back into the workforce, they provide permanent jobs and training.

“The more people are outside in fresh air, in nature, touching soil, touching plants, it provides a short term immediate endorphin boost, but also over the long term it starts to help you reintegrate back into nature and a more kind of calm, centred and grounded place,” Beyde told Humber News.

The gardening at CAMH provides a host of benefits to clients who participate.

“We can definitely draw parallels to key concepts in recovering with mental health and addiction, and those include building community, finding a sense of purpose, being productive, doing things that get you outdoors, and clearly gardening does all of that,” said Mawhinney.

The job of rehabilitation experts is to help clients find ways to manage more effectively and in a way that has healthier outcomes than relying on substances, said Fletcher.

“We hear from clients that they experience it as being profoundly therapeutic,” Mawhinney said of the gardening at CAMH.

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Christina Zisko

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