Society allotment grant helps depressed men improve their physical and mental health

A horticultural project for men who are at risk of depression and possible suicide living in Barking and Dagenham was launched this spring, with the support of a British Psychological Society public engagement grant and the North East London NHS Foundation Trust.

The project, ‘Young at Heart’, aims to improve the mental and physical health of socially isolated men by involving them in regular gardening sessions and monthly support meetings. It has featured in an upcoming All in the Mind programme on Radio 4 with Claudia Hammond, who will report on its progress later this summer.

‘Young at Heart’ aims to build on the history of allotment gardening in Barking and Dagenham which makes this an acceptable method to engage men who may not otherwise access services for emotional support.

Men are less likely than women to seek help for emotional issues and they are less likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression but they are three times more likely to successfully take their own lives.

Chartered Clinical Psychologist Dr Victoria Winson, who leads the project, said:

“There are some 58,000 adult men in Barking and Dagenham and if you estimate that one in four of this population may suffer from mental health problems this would result in a high number of men experiencing some form of emotional problem, the majority of whom will not access formal or informal treatment or support.

"Social isolation and exclusion is a known risk factor for poor mental health. Allotments often have a strong sense of community and are places where people from a wide range of backgrounds come together and provide an ideal place to challenge social isolation. Many thanks to the British Psychological Society and the North East London NHS Foundation Trust without whose support this project wouldn’t have been possible.”

The project was funded by the British Psychological Society’s public engagement grants.  Each year the Society provides grants for sustainable activities that demonstrate the benefits of psychology to the public. 

Applications for the 2011 grants, which made £40,000 available to Society members, have just closed. We shall be reporting the winners on this website as soon as they are announced and look our for details of our 2012 scheme here too.