Therapeutic Garden Officially Opened by Mental Health Champion

24th February 2022

Northern Ireland’s Mental Health Champion  Professor Siobhan O’Neill has officially opened a new therapeutic garden near the Acute Mental Health Unit at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald.  The dusting of snow this morning transformed the sensory garden into a ‘winter wonderland’, making the occasion even more enchanting.

The garden has a range of design features to enhance the patients therapeutic experience providing a relaxing vibe.   A therapeutic pod, which is a central feature point in the garden, will provide patients with an area to sit and relax and listen to some music in a heated environment whilst enjoying the beautiful flowerbeds and landscaped scenery.

The ambience and sensory experiences are further enhanced by discreet spot lighting, enabling the use of the garden in the evening time.

Patients have been involved throughout the planning process ensuring the garden meets the needs of those within the unit.

Opening the garden, Professor Siobhan O’Neill said, “It is such a privilege to open this beautiful space today.  Adversity, trauma and hardship is associated with mental health problems and it is so important to have a therapeutic space for patients to enjoy.  This is so vital for mental health and wellbeing, and this garden provides such a beautiful area in which to reflect and relax.  It is incredibly special that users were involved in the creation of this outdoor area.  This wonderful garden sends a message of hope.”

A former patient of Ward 25 June Braniff who was involved in the planning of the garden added, “As an ex fully recovered patient of Ward 27 in the Ulster Hospital, I was delighted when the Ward Manager asked me to be part of the “Garden Team.”  We met via Zoom and I was sent a plan of the proposed garden.  This gave me the opportunity to express my views on the proposed layout.”

June added, “ This wonderful garden will make the patients stay much more pleasant as it is so calm, therapeutic and healing and includes many occupational therapy features for patients to benefit from.”

The Chief Executive of the South Eastern Trust was delighted with the finished project and thanked Professor Siobhan O’Neill for opening such an important addition to the mental health services in the Trust.

Roisin Coulter said, “We have put our heart and soul into developing excellent  services for our patients and clients. We want to ensure they have the best care possible. Our patients are our priority and it is essential that they are at the heart of everything we do.”

Concluding the celebrations, Margaret O’Kane, Director of Adult Services, South Eastern Trust added, “I am delighted that this beautiful garden is available for our patients to enjoy.  Therapeutic spaces such as this play an important role in enabling a sense of emotional wellbeing which will support people in their recovery journey.”