Get Up and Grow allotments in Suffolk provide mental health patients with support and ‘ecotherapy’
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One in five people in rural communities like Suffolk who have struggled with their mental health keep it quiet because they do not think anyone else would understand, it has been revealed.
More than half of those questioned by the charity Mind admitted they did not open up about their thoughts because they didn’t want to burden someone with their problems.
Yet 81% of the same respondents, who live in countryside areas, said they feel good about themselves when they are there for people they care about.
The charity is releasing these new figures to highlight the power of “peer support”, which is help given and received on an equal basis by people who share something in common - mental illness.
In this county, patients are using the rural environment as “ecotherapy” for their mental health issues.
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Suffolk Mind has launched a project called Get Up and Grow, with allotment plots in Hadleigh, Haverhill, Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket.
The scheme sees like-minded people come together to make plants and friendships grow.
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Christina Perea, volunteer and ecotherapy manager at Suffolk Mind, said: “Sharing a problem with someone who has been through the same thing can help lighten the load.
“This is particularly true when you experience a mental health problem, which is why we’re interested to explore the power of peer support.
“Peer support provides a fantastic opportunity to use difficult experiences as an asset to support and be supported by other people who have experienced mental health problems.
“Through the local hubs championing peer support programmes we hope to empower local services to offer peer support, gather evidence for its benefits and share best practice.”
Advice on where to find local peer support groups can be found here.
For those who are less green-fingered, the charity has also set up an online resource for sufferers to find solace in others.
Elefriends offers a virtual platform for participants to share and talk about their thoughts and feelings.
Suffolk Mind estimates that 16% of the county’s population has a diagnosed mental health issue, while 29% of Suffolk adults experience mild to moderate mental ill health.