Meet Julie Loftus, who’s using her passion for growing to inspire others about the benefits of nature on mental health and depression.
A huge part of Julie Loftus’ life is now taken up by chairing Community garden group Green Thumbs in Brinnington, educating residents on how to grow their own fruit and vegetables, maintaining the allotment and encouraging others to spend time in her beloved green space, but it hasn’t always been that way.
Brinnington Big Local is a partnership of local residents and partner agencies who share an ambition to make their area an even better place to live, including initiatives like Green Thumbs, a community allotment space which has transformed Julie’s life dramatically in comparison to how it was just four years prior.
A space for all
Julie talks openly about suffering with depression for a number of years, often struggling to find the motivation to do every-day tasks that involved leaving the house. On one regular afternoon, a friend brought up the new community growing space in the area and encouraged Julie to come down and see what it was all about. A key barrier in the way was the idea that Julie wouldn’t know enough about maintaining an allotment, nor would she get along with those who spend time there, but as she soon discovered, it was meant to be.
Building Community Cohesion
Part of Groundwork’s role is to identify the needs of a community and build its confidence, capacity and skills needed so priorities can be identified and action can be taken in response to them. Julie was soon elected as the chair of Green Thumbs through her hard work in bringing residents together to talk about their issues and concerns, whilst using her new gardening skills to find a solution.
Nature is a healer
Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, 24% of women in England are diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. Whilst the evidence is still young, there are clear indications that spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression.
Julie says that despite now having a clear focus and passion in gardening, she still has her down days;
In 2019, The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, presented Brinnington with his Age-Friendly Award: Neighbourhoods that make Greater Manchester the best place in the UK to grow older. It’s thanks to initiatives like Green thumbs, and strong partnership work that quality of life is getting better, new measures to alleviate poverty and improve our local environment are in place, as well as promoting healthier lifestyles for all local people.
Watch Julie’s Story below:
For more information please visit the Brinnington Big Local website or contact Nina Burns, Communities Manager on 0161 220 1000.