A CHARITY that helps heal the invisible wounds of conflict with gardening therapy has launched a new campaign to tackle stigma around Armed Forces veterans with mental health issues.

GARDENING2Gardening Leave launched its “Honesty” campaign, which uses the honesty seed head as an emblem, at its new-look horticultural therapy garden at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, refurbished extensively over the winter by ISS Facility Services Landscaping.

The garden now boasts bespoke raised beds, designed to make gardening easier for veterans with balance problems or in wheelchairs, and a custom-built shed where therapists can work with veterans out of the rain.

With the Honesty campaign, the charity wants to be able to show the veterans it works with, and others, that civilians are committed to them, and so will ask individuals to make a pledge to be honest about veterans’ mental health.

Heather Budge-Reid, chief executive of Gardening Leave, said: “Stigma can have a direct impact on a troubled veteran’s recovery, making them reluctant to seek help and becoming increasingly withdrawn.

“We need to understand the facts and reduce stigma by increasing civilian understanding of the issue and showing veterans they are understood by their community.

“We chose the honesty seed as the symbol of this work because in the darkest months of the year, the honesty seed head catches the sun’s rays and offers hope to all those who see it.”

Central to the ISS-supported campaign will be asking individuals to understand four key facts.


Fact 1: 20 per cent of veterans suffer some form of mental health problem but this is very similar to levels in the general public

Fact 2: Stigma exists – an estimated 81% of veterans who are suffering from mental ill health revealed they felt ashamed or embarrassed about their condition.

Fact 3: It is not only post-traumatic stress that is the problem. Only 3-4 per cent of veterans have post-traumatic stress, 16 per cent are troubled by depression, anxiety and other more common problems.

Fact 4: For some, it’s not over when they’re home. It can take 13-14 years of things getting worse before a veteran will go for help.


GARDENING3Gardening Leave then wants as many people as possible to sign the Honesty pledge to demonstrate they:

  • understand and accept some veterans face mental health problems and a difficult transition to civilian life
  • understand that, although they are not in the headlines, some veterans still need support
  • promise to respond to veterans with an open mind and an understanding attitude – welcoming them into the community.

The Honesty pledge can be found on the charity’s website and the organisation will also be carrying out research in communities near its projects to find out more about the nature of stigma.

More than 250 ISS staff have already signed the Honesty pledge. Managing Director Phil Jones said: “It is a cause which they have very much signed up to and which has heightened awareness amongst our workforce of the problems our Armed Forces veterans face.”

ISS was the first facility management service provider to sign the MOD Corporate Covenant, and defence industry contracts account for approximately 25 per cent of the company’s current portfolio.

The new custom-built shed in the refurbished Gardening Leave garden was also supported by funding from BrandAlley. The firm donated the proceeds from the sale of plants in its 2013 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden, designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes.

For more information on Gardening Leave visit www.gardeningleave.org or follow on Twitter @Gardening_Leave

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