To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week, Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan visited Keep Wales Tidy’s Growing Together initiative in Newport.
Funded through Welsh Government’s Healthy and Active Fund, this project helps tackle loneliness and social isolation and improve mental and physical health by bringing residents of Milton Court together to grow vegetables and flowers in their shared garden.
Linked to the local primary school, residents and pupils have shared video diaries during the pandemic helping to maintain intergenerational links and improve the digital skills of residents so they can connect to more people in more ways.
Growing Together is an intergenerational growing project, which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of adults and children by enabling more active lifestyles. It seeks to engage with older people, including those with long term illness, and schools in deprived areas. Keep Wales Tidy has partnered with Newport City Homes and United Wales, and the charity Age Connects Torfaen to roll out five Growing Together initiatives in Cardiff, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Monmouthshire and Newport. Each site is paired with a local primary school.
Loneliness and social isolation can affect anyone at all stages of life and are closely linked to mental health, with people with a mental health condition more likely to report feelings of loneliness.
Feeling connected to friends, family or the wider community can reduce the likelihood of experiencing some mental health conditions and can help people suffering to recover.
Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said:
“The theme of this year’s Mental Awareness Week is loneliness, which has taken on greater prominence since the pandemic. Preventing people of all ages from becoming lonely and/or socially isolated is a national priority for us. We are determined to change how people think about loneliness and help connect communities, so people know what services and support are available to them.
“It is fantastic to be able to visit this Growing Together initiative and see first-hand the positive impact it is having on the mental and physical health of those involved with the project. Projects like this are central to bringing communities together and reducing feelings of loneliness. I encourage anyone who is struggling with feeling isolated or lonely to look for projects such as this in their local area.”
Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being, Lynne Neagle said:
“Being lonely and/or socially isolated can have a huge effect on people’s physical and mental health and can be experienced by us all at any age and stage of life. The pandemic caused many people across Wales to feel lonely and isolated. Even with the lifting of restrictions some people may still have some concerns or hesitations about leaving their homes and re-engaging with others. It is great to see projects like Growing Together helping to alleviate these fears and bring people together as we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week.”
Jake Castle, Keep Wales Tidy Regional Manager said:
“We’re incredibly proud of the Growing Together initiative and the difference it’s made to the well-being of everyone at Milton Court. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, residents have been able to enjoy spending time together outdoors and forge connections with young people. It demonstrates the value of having access to nature on your doorstep and the positive benefits of environmental volunteering.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how the garden evolves and the over the coming years.”