By Lesley McCall
The idea for the Green Hub Project for Teens came originally from founder Tone Tellefsen-Hughes because of the concern she felt about the declining mental health of our teenagers. This concern is echoed by many of us who work in teenage mental health and the parents of teenagers.
Photo by Ángel López on Unsplash
In the last few years there has been a dramatic rise in hospital admissions of teenagers struggling with anxiety, suicidal thoughts, serious self-harm, anorexia and much more.
- 1 in 8 have diagnosable mental health disorder
- 1 in 6 (16-24) show symptoms such as depression or anxiety
- 50% mental health problems manifest by age 14
- And 75% by age 24
It is clear that this problem is not going away and is damaging more and more of our children’s lives and in some tragic cases destroying them. The NHS mental health services for teenagers and children, despite being staffed by wonderful, committed people, simply can’t keep up – they are overwhelmed. The waiting lists for help are months long, leaving struggling teenagers and their desperately worried parents with no where to go.
Although the Green Hub can’t provide medical care it can provide a safe haven of peace and calm where anxious teenagers can go. Working outside in nature is proven to raise levels of ‘happiness hormones’ and these teenagers can be part of a worthwhile project which gives a sense of achievement.
Non-judgmental, compassionate listening
The volunteers (many of whom already work with teenagers in some capacity) are on hand to provide gardening advice and (when needed) non-judgmental, compassionate listening. Being outside in such a lovely environment is therapy in itself and the a beautiful walled garden where we work has lots to offer. Besides growing flowers there are vegetable beds , fruit trees and even a well established vine growing along one wall.
Whether the teenagers we see want to learn gardening, how to grow vegetables, work on landscaping project or just sit and be there doesn’t matter . Being outside, away from their technology and worries is the important thing.
The Green Hub Project for Teens is not about offering therapy sessions or medical solutions; it’s about giving teenagers a break from life, a chance to breathe, to be present in the moment. Somewhere positive and supportive to go. We hope to be an additional support to the mental health of the teenagers, allowing them to be, just for a while, in a place they can find hope and calm.
Lesley is a therapist specialising in anxiety and related problems in teenagers and young people.