Give a little, help a lot: comic Jo Brand backs Bethlem appeal

The therapy garden at the Royal Bethlem Hospital has helped thousands of patients

TV comic Jo Brand is backing an appeal from the Bethlem Royal Hospital, where she used to work as a mental health nurse, to raise funds to help patients recover from severe mental illness in the calming environment of the hospital’s therapy garden.

Under this year’s Big Give appeal, which runs from December 1 to 8, every £1 raised by the hospital will be doubled through match-funding.

“As a former Bethlem and Maudsley Nurse,” Brand said, “I saw first-hand how important it is for people to access outdoor space and nature to aid their recovery.

“The Bethlem Garden is a unique and wonderful example of NHS staff providing a vital service, supported entirely by charitable funding.”

The Bethlem Royal Hospital, on Monks Orchard Road, is the world’s oldest psychiatric hospital, dating back to 1247, once notoriously known as “Bedlam”. It has successfully used horticulture to support patients throughout its history; there has been a therapeutic garden on the site in Beckenham since 1930.

The garden has been able to operate throughout the covid-19 pandemic, creating a lifeline for patients who might otherwise have had little opportunity to be outdoors.

One patient said: “Throughout the pandemic, the therapeutic benefits of gardening have given me a sense of calmness and relaxation in a somewhat chaotic life.

“Being outdoors with nature means for that short period I can breathe, and nothing else matters. It also helps me to discover new talents and in time build up my confidence, which is something I lack on a daily basis.”

The garden is funded by the Maudsley Charity.

Jo Brand: has seen the therapy garden work

It allows patients to connect with nature, grow fruit and vegetables, learn about healthy eating and engage with wildlife. The weekly sessions, led by horticultural therapy experts and volunteers, provide a safe, special place away from the hospital wards in which to explore, develop and socialise with others. The sessions also offer paths to employment opportunities.

Brand said, “We are already seeing the tragic impact covid-19 is having on people with existing mental illness, as well at those experiencing mental illness for the first time in their lives.

“Projects like the garden are under increased pressure to help more people, when many other activities are cancelled at this time resulting in increased isolation and loneliness. Please donate to this important cause – every £1 you donate will be doubled.”

Make a donation to Bethlem Garden in The Big Give campaign and every pound you give will be doubled. Donate by clicking here.

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