Antrim garden to support veterans’ mental health
A flowerbed at Clotworthy House in Antrim Castle Gardens is to be made available for the use of ex-service personnel in support of a mental health initiative.
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has been approached by the Reserve Forces’ & Cadets’ Association for Northern Ireland (RFCA NI) to make a bed available to the Defence Gardens Scheme.
The scheme works in partnership with veterans’ charities, military units, community mental health service providers and gardening projects to develop and deliver nature-based therapy for service leavers and veterans.
It is supported by the Northern Ireland (NI) Veterans Support Office and the NI Veterans Commissioner, Danny Kinahan, a former Ballyclare Ulster Unionist councillor. Those participating in the scheme will tend this bed and participate in gardening and maintenance.
RFCA NI is an independent, community-based organisation with the responsibility of advising and assisting the Defence Council on issues concerning 2,000 reservists and more than 3,500 cadets.
Antrim Alderman Paul Michael BEM, who is a council representative on the RFCA NI, told a meeting of the council’s Community Planning Committee on Monday evening that it was through this role that that the matter was highlighted.
He emphasised the importance of improving the mental health of ex-service personnel returning to “civvy street”.
Ald Michael said: “It is a genuine project. It is for the mental health and well-being of those people who want to feel they can have a particular role in society and our community and give them an opportunity to get involved with the garden and look after and maintain certain areas. I think it is a great idea. I am looking forward to it.”
Antrim DUP Cllr Paul Dunlop BEM commented: “I think this will be beneficial to us all especially locals who walk through the Castle Gardens to see this. I am more than happy to second.”
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
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