Greener On The Outside For Prisons (GOOP) is a health and wellbeing programme that delivers environmental initiatives that help to improve prisoners’ quality of life, reduce health inequalities and has a positive impact on the drive to reduce re-offending.
Spectrum’s partnership with GOOP explores the connection of mental health with nature, and its amazing healing power.
With many prisoners’ behaviours and health needs relating back to past traumatic experiences, research has shown that mindfulness exercises can focus one’s attention on the ‘here and now’; an important therapeutic tool. Gardening is a classic example of such a mindfulness exercise, especially given the seasonal nature of gardening.
Dr Linda Harris, Spectrum’s Chief Executive, said, “There is the innate link between working in the fresh air, enjoying the outdoors, getting your hands dirty in the soil, or digging and planting, that brings nature alongside physical exercise. Our dedicated health promotion workforce can often find it hard to motivate certain sections of the population to get moving and to see the benefits of traditional exercise. But by linking it seamlessly with the natural world and gardening, we are seeing a whole new group of people getting the benefits of ‘working out’ on the land.”
One of the main benefits of gardening is the social interactions it can foster. Studies conducted at community gardens and the work of GOOP itself behind the prison gate have found that gardening has a significantly positive impact on a couple of the key factors behind poor mental health – loneliness and isolation.
Dr Linda added, “Our organisation has been able to benefit from the public health leadership of Dr Michelle Baybutt, who ensures our healthcare workforce is able to contribute to the growing body of research backing the idea that gardening has measurable benefits to both mental and physical health. Via GOOP, she helps our staff to make the link between gardening, nature and horticulture as a therapeutic exercise for our patients.”
To learn more about GOOP’s work, read their Spring/Summer newsletter here.