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Biophilic urbanism: how rooftop gardening soothes souls

17 May 2017
  • A horticultural therapy program trialled at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, demonstrates benefits for people recovering from mental illness

What do an engineer, a building surveyor and a mental health nurse have in common? The answer is a retrofitted rooftop garden. This was a project developed to evaluate the impact of horticultural therapy on the health and wellbeing of people recovering from mental illness.

When engineer Rob Casilick contacted building surveyor and academic Sara Wilkinson with the news that he had funding to evaluate the GROW horticultural therapy program on the rooftop garden at St Canice’s [opens external link], an inner-city church in Sydney’s Kings Cross, she knew this was a great opportunity. She also knew she couldn’t evaluate the health effects, so turned to UTS academic and mental health nurse Fiona Orr.

They understood just how broad the potential benefits could be. Approximately one in every five Australians experiences a mental illness. Mental health may be affected by individual or societal factors [opens external link], including economic disadvantage, poor housing, lack of social support and the level of access to, and use of, health services.

Yet, in our increasingly urbanised, high-density, high-pressure and, some say, increasingly isolated world, there is growing evidence of a salve and a way of mitigating stress, pressure and mental illness. And it’s right above our heads [opens external link]. Based on the findings of the GROW study, other rooftop gardens are now being created.

Read the full story on The Conversation [opens external link]

Byline: Fiona Orr and Associate Professor Sara Wilkinson