Wellness program helps people with mental health conditions through gardening

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Mental Health Connecticut is focused on wellness from the ground up. Their new program, GROW, takes green therapy to new heights.

GROW stands for for gardening, recovery, and opportunities for wellness.

“It basically encompasses our entire program,” says Grayson Colarusso, who created and manages GROW for people with mental health conditions who require residential support. “We don’t just grow things, we also want to implement nutritional classes,” he adds, “teach people how to take what they’re growing and turn it into a healthy meal.”

Jennifer McLellan lives at one of Mental Health Connecticut’s residential facilities, where she’s been planting her own organic foods. She says that eating vegetables makes her feel healthier and gives her body the fuel to participate in her favorite sports for Special Olympics

The GROW program is more than teaching valuable life skills. It’s also a chance for people living with mental health conditions to get some green therapy.

Related Content: Prepping your garden for the fall

“You make a connection to the plants,” says Grayson, “and that really is the therapy side because this isn’t just a plant, this is your friend, this is your family, this is your community, and a lot of the people we work with are missing those lanes in their life.”

“This is like a tool for my triggers, Jennifer says. “It makes me think of other stuff that’s good so my anxiety doesn’t go up.”

In this first year of the program, their greenhouse in Torrington has produced 100 pounds of food. The program is also expanding in Bridgeport, Waterbury, Stamford and Danbury.  

“Everything in gardening is metaphorical because you, like the plant, grow, you go through changes,” says Grayson. “It’s really cool, we can do a lot of things here with just one program.”

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