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Gardening has incredible powers for our wellbeing, especially for those experiencing serious and life altering mental health problems.

“It is no exaggeration to say that his life was transformed. And not just his life, the whole family has been lifted in spirit by his placement.

From being a withdrawn and lonely young man William has blossomed into a lively, interesting and deeply caring person. His interest in plants has given him a purpose and a goal.”

William’s father

For William, gardening helped him recover from a mental breakdown. He joined Family Action’s ESCAPE’s community allotment and orchard project which uses green therapy to improve the lives of adults facing issues such as mental health problems, social isolation or addiction.  He shares what it’s like to be part of the project and the Chelsea Flower Show.

“In 2013 I moved to Norfolk with my parents. I was in a very bad place, I have autism and there was a lot of change that I couldn’t handle. I became very lonely and isolated, and I had a mental breakdown.

After a few months shutting myself away from everything, I was introduced to Family Action’s ESCAPE project.
I had never done any gardening before, and still remember going up to the allotment for my trial. I don’t know what it was but something clicked, something was warm, it just felt like going home.

Since then I still have mental health problems, some days are fine but some are hell. But gardening and the community at ESCAPE gets me out the house and out of the day to day painfulness.

One of the great things is seeing the fruits of your labour and seeing the success of your gardening year by year.

That’s not most important part though. Whilst gardening we talk, and the people here and the support they give are what makes it a community. A very very welcoming community that makes you feel like you’re home from home.

I see this community really lifting people’s mental health. And this means they can not only go back into the social world, but often start working and contributing economically. I’ve done several training courses in horticulture and its quite normal for people to start using the service when they need it, then come to offer support to others.

When I found out that we would be part of the Chelsea Flower so I was stunned. I could not believe that we were going to go to Chelsea flower show. It’s wonderful that through the garden we will have the chance to show the country what we do, and how important projects like this are.

To someone coming to the ESCAPE project for the first time, I would say don’t feel like you’re alone, that you’re not part of the family, you already are, and welcome to the team.”

This year, Family Action and idverde have teamed together to create the Family Monsters Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The garden is designed to reflect the everyday pressures, or family monsters, many families face but find difficult to talk about. Family Action’s  ESCAPE community allotment and orchard project have worked with idverde to grow plants for the garden, and have been on site in the run up to the show helping with planting.

Read more about how Family Action uses gardening to improve mental health.