Fantastic garden makeover helps patients improve their mental health and wellbeing

Mental health patients and staff are benefitting from a new courtyard garden that aims to help patients improve their mental health and wellbeing.

The garden at Woodlands Centre for Acute Care in Hastings officially opened in the summer, after a garden makeover by local company A. F. Blakemore and Sons Ltd, as part of their community volunteering programme.

Run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the Woodlands Centre for Acute Care provides inpatient care, support and treatment for adults who are experiencing mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression and severe anxiety.

Staff at Woodlands Centre for Acute Care wanted to rescue the courtyard garden, after it became overgrown with weeds, to give patients a relaxing and peaceful place where they can enjoy being outdoors, to help improve their mental health and aid their recovery.

Gemma Townsend, Urgent Care Service Manager, said: "The idea for improving the courtyard garden came about because it was such a well-used space, but there was no system in place to maintain the flower beds and benches and the area was overgrown with weeds. It relied on staff having time, and patients being well enough, and interested in, gardening to maintain it. 

"One of our support workers had mentioned it to a family member, who is involved with A.F. Blakemore and Son Ltd, and they came to have a look to see if they could help with a makeover.

"There is now space that people can look at and enjoy. The courtyard has been brought to life again and is a much more peaceful place to be." 

Phil Burton, General Manager at A.F. Blakemore and Son Ltd, said: "As part of our core values we do a lot of voluntary work within the community through our Blakemore foundation and I am delighted that Gemma and colleagues were pleased with the work that was carried out by members of my team.

"I encourage my team at Hastings to carry out two or three community projects each year, and I select a team leader for each project, this will be a member of staff that is not usually in a supervisory role, but being in charge of a project allows them to demonstrate their leadership skills by motivating their team and planning the project.

"So while staff and patients have seen a benefit, and our work has been welcomed and appreciated, it also benefits the staff that take part in these projects, it gives them a great deal of job satisfaction and is ideal for developing their own confidence and leadership skills, this in turn gives us a more skilled and motivated work force."