Moncton Hospital unveils new rooftop garden for mental health patients
A long stay in hospital can be a lonely experience for patients, but the Moncton Hospital is trying to change that.
The hospital has unveiled a rooftop garden, which will be used by mental health and addiction inpatients during their stay at the facility.
Health officials say the $230,000 garden brings fresh flowers, patio furniture, and an exercise space to people whose spirits are often at their lowest, with fresh air being a powerful medicine all on its own.
“The best way to move forward for mental health is not just medication, but it’s also having a healthy lifestyle, walking, exercise, and the natural space is going to be a big plus for us,” says Dr. Dinesh Bhalla, chief of psychiatry at the Moncton Hospital.
“I would imagine a space outside that unit and I would see myself out in that garden, so it’s wonderful to see it all come to pass,” says former patient Susan Duquette.
Duquette spent almost three months in hospital in 2013 as she suffered from grief and depression after the loss of her brother.
She says she has found tranquility in gardening and helped to make the new green space a reality.
“I would actually spend two or three hours just sitting in front of the windows trying to get sunshine,” recalls Duquette. “Then I brought in my own sun lamp in my bedroom and put that on for two or three hours a day, just trying to get the sun and some good vibes.”
Doctors say the new space could cut down on the amount of medication patients need, and even shorten their hospital stay.
“I think it’s going to relieve a lot of anxiety symptoms,” says Bhalla. “It’s going to take a lot of agitation away, and hopefully we’ll be able to use less of the medication for sleep disorders just because they have fresh air and some activities.”
The Moncton Hospital has treated nearly 10,000 addiction and mental health patients over the course of last year. At any given time, 38 patients in three different units will be able to visit the new rooftop garden.
It’s something former patient Alicia Robichaud wishes had existed when she stayed in the unit in 2010. Her family was able to take her for walks around Moncton, but Robichaud says she’s one of the lucky ones.
“Some of the other patients did not have that convenience. They did not have access to nature space and outdoor air,” she says. “Ill or not, kids have the right to be kids. They have a right to those basic things that help a kid’s mental health.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Cami Kepke