Community Options receives £85k to continue exceptional local eco project in Bromley.
The award comes in recognition of the project’s invaluable work to date, supporting local residents with experience of mental health problems, by using horticulture as a form of therapy. The money, the project’s second Ecominds grant, will fund Branching Out to continue this work and set the project up for long-term success and sustainability.
The current project works with the community and friends of parks groups to improve local green spaces and increase awareness of mental health. Community Options will use the Ecominds funding to turn the project into a social enterprise providing gardening services in the Bromley area. This will enable Branching Out to transform the lives of more people with mental health issues whilst providing a sustainable and useful service to the local community.
The project which supports people to recover from mental illness through structured planning, has so far seen 57 participants pass City and Guilds level 1 in Practice Horticulture, and 42 people gain a full diploma. As well as gaining practical skills, participants have flourished in other areas of their lives, building self-esteem and improving mental and physical health.
Research shows outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate anxiety and depression – and is available locally without the waiting times, costs or negative side effects associated with many other treatment options.
GPs are starting to recognise the role outdoor projects like Branching Out can play in the treatment of people with mental health problems, and so the need for these services is increasing. The Ecominds grant will help the Branching Out project respond to this demand, against the difficult backdrop of budget cuts, changes to service commissioning and increased public demand for mental health support.
Chris Mansi, CEO of Community Options says: “We are thrilled to be able to continue supporting those who attend Branching Out each week. When we established the project we believed recruiting volunteers would be a challenge, but the opposite is true. We have more people wanting to take part than we envisaged! This project has already directly transformed the lives of 57 people with mental health issues and provided gardening outreach sessions for another 97 people with mental health problems. Thanks to this second Ecominds grant from Mind, we will be able to help many more people experiencing mental health problems in the months and years ahead.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said: “This additional burst of BIG funding presents Ecominds projects with an incredible opportunity to provide long-term support at a local level, for those who need it most. Outdoor therapy has become a life line for many, offering an alternative form of treatment that can be maintained for life. It is fantastic that projects can now rise to the very real challenge of uncertainty and change in service provision nationally. We are excited to continue our work with projects over the coming year as they develop to fulfill the grant objectives and support those in their communities.”
Branching Out is one of 87 outdoor exercise projects in England to receive secondary Ecominds awards from Mind today, thanks to a further £2 million from the Big Lottery Fund. Evaluation of the Ecominds scheme, since it started in 2010, shows the clear social and economic impact of the programme – with participants reporting improved physical and mental wellbeing, thousands moving onto further volunteering, training or paid work; and across the country, communities experiencing improved access to green spaces.