Tom’s Story: An Outdoor Journey to Mental Wellness
Tom was a 21-year-old living with bipolar disorder when he arrived at South Hills Tertiary Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centre in June of 2016. His mental illness caused him to feel confused and exhausted at times, and initially, Tom’s support workers found that he struggled to focus and stay on task. Within his first week, however, Tom discovered Open Door Group’s Gardengate program.
“Focus became a non-issue at Gardengate, as he took complex, multi-step directions and sequenced his work accordingly.”
Immediately, he expressed interest in working at Gardengate, and took the initiative to discuss the idea with his occupational therapist. Soon after, Tom was out in the garden pruning, harvesting, seeding, transplanting, field planting, and doing woodwork. Focus became a non-issue at Gardengate, as he took complex, multi-step directions and sequenced his work accordingly. The program allowed Tom to use existing skills while gaining confidence in new skills such as reading tape measures, cutting different angles, and using a variety of saws. His previous experience with cooking and baking also led Tom to participate to participate in Gardengate’s cooking workshops, and he now has plans to be a cook in the future.
Beyond the work experience and new skills, Tom’s favourite part of Gardengate was break time. This was where he could enjoy “real coffee” and have time to socialize and relax with his co-workers. Always a team player, Tom was able to make friends easily in the program, and maintained a level of positivity that was infectious and encouraging to those around him.
“Gardengate energized Tom, and was a key component for him in gaining stability with his mental health.”
Gardengate energized Tom, and was a key component for him in gaining stability with his mental health. After ten months with the program, Tom returned to the Kootenays. When asked what he wants people to know about Gardengate, Tom said: “The time you put in is definitely worth it.”