Muddy Fork uses volunteer gardening to support mental heath improvements.
Our sessions are based on a few simple principles:
Everyone with a mental health problem is dealing with their own particular challenges. The variety of work available around the garden lets everyone take part in a way that suits them at the time.
Mental health problems often result in isolation. It's very much easier to chat to someone as you garden together than to start a conversation in other social settings. There's a ready made topic of shared interest and focus is on the work, not the talk.
Safe and supportive
We foster an atmosphere of non-judgemental support to encourage people to contribute to conversations and activities without fear of criticism.
Everyone can see their work has useful results in the garden and is appreciated by our group and by our customers.
We make use of the skills people bring and learn from them.
Self-worth, eroded by mental heath battles, gradually returns.
There's an endless list of horticultural skills to learn in the garden, plus willow crafts, bee keeping, wood working and wildlife identification. Acquiring a new skill is a good confidence builder.
A view of natural greenery feels good. Spending time surrounded by it feels better. Getting your hands dirty growing some greenery of your own feels wonderful.
Gardening isn't difficult but it makes us focus on the task in hand with no room for other thoughts. Visiting dragonflies and our beautiful barn owls grab our attention and before we know it we've had a whole day off from our usual mental health worries.
Gardening involves physical activity, ranging from gentle seated work to heavy digging. Exercise makes us feel good straight away and improved fitness helps keep us feeling good.
A variety of overlapping terminology is used for nature based therapies.
Muddy Fork's gardening mental health support doesn't precisely follow any of the definitions of specific therapies, though we have much in common with all of them.
A very useful summary of nature based therapies is
A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care
Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number 204. BRAGG, R., ATKINS, G. 2016
That review offers the broad definition
"Green care: nature-based therapy or treatment interventions - specifically designed, structured and facilitated for individuals with a defined need"
which sounds like what we do at Muddy Fork.