Ignore the cold and the wet – Spring really has Sprung. Even as we shiver, we are surrounded with fresh green growth and dazzled with yellow and white, orange and blue wherever we look.
Time, then, to take a fresh look at the Orb garden, and think again about the impact that the natural world can have on our mental well being.
‘It started with a packet of seeds.’
Mick Robinson is talking about the difference Orb Community Enterprise has made to his life.
Mick used to run a computer department. It was a high pressure job and, as with so many jobs, the pressure kept growing.
‘I had a breakdown and I attempted suicide. After leaving hospital I was out walking one day when, on impulse, I decided to buy a packet of seeds. To my surprise they grew – so I got some more. After a while I was encouraged to take a gardening course. My love of plants grew but I wasn’t sure where it could take me. Then I was introduced to Orb.’
At first sight, even to those of us who love it, Orb – a concrete-ex-garage-at-the-end-of-the-alley-past-the-theatre – belies its nature as a hotbed of creativity. So let’s just remind ourselves that this Tardis-like space manages to encapsulate an art studio, recording studio, rehearsal room, IT suite (oh – and an amazing garden, thanks largely to Mick and his team of volunteers.)
Let’s also remind ourselves that mental ill-health does great damage to our society. 5% of people in the Harrogate District accessed NHS mental health services during 2008/9. 40% of those claiming disability benefits in the same area were doing so because of mental ill-health. So, statistically, everyone of us reading this will be affected, either directly or indirectly.
But the focus has to be on individuals, like Mick.
Joining Orb as a service user, Mick became a volunteer, then went on to paid work as a gardener, turning a patch of waste ground at Orb into a flourishing haven of positive energy which, as he says, ‘simply raises your heart’.
‘I still struggle with difficult days from time to time. But I have no doubt that it’s Orb’s bright supportive atmosphere, and the difference my work is making to the garden that keeps me out of hospital.’
Working with the natural environment, opening our hearts to natural, organic growth has such a powerful effect on everyone’s mental (and physical) wellbeing. If you want measurable evidence of this, take a look at the Ecominds website.
Or better still, next time you’re down at Orb’s end-of the-alley, take a look at our own garden. With a mental image of how things used to look . . .
‘raise your heart’ with the transformation of new growth and colour that now surrounds you, thanks to Mick and his team.
And maybe come back next time with a pair of wellies and a spade!