Cherry Tree Nursery

A charity based on horticulture providing meaningful occupation in a supportive
environment, aiming to restore well-being to people with mental illness.
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Monday to Friday (all year)
8.00am to 3.30pm

Saturdays and Sundays

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Mental illness
a new day at cherry tree nursery Mental illnesses are some of the least understood conditions in society, even though the World Health Organisation now rates mental illness as the most debilitating of all conditions, ahead of heart disease and cancer, and estimates the economic and social cost of mental illness, in England alone, as being in excess of £80 billion annually. 

Mental health problems can take many forms.  Illnesses like schizophrenia and related conditions can severely interfere with an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks and activities; the person may become confused and withdrawn, perhaps hearing and seeing things that other people cannot.

Other people experience mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, in which moods can vary from hyperactive manic episodes to periods of great depression, between intense creativity and despair.


There has been a great increase recently in cases of depression. This sometimes chronic illness can profoundly lower a person’s mood, leaving them unmotivated and exhausted.  Depression is often linked to anxiety, which is a constant and unrealistic worry. Anxiety may lead to panic attacks, which are unexpected bouts of intense terror.  Other illnesses result in obsessions or phobias, which can be unbearable or paralysing.

Frequently, experiencing a mental illness results in a complete breakdown of the person’s personality and in their work, home and family life.  People describe ‘looking into a black hole’. There seems no way out and no hope, no reason to continue struggling.

‘Before I came here I was climbing the walls, and spent my time frustrated and struggling’

‘Human life begins on the far side of despair’ Jean Paul Sartre

Charles Walker MP pointed out to us on a recent visit that quoting this figure of ‘one in four’ can result in an under-estimation of the profound suffering endured by those with severe and enduring mental illness. We use the figure merely to indicate the great increase in the number of people being diagnosed with mental health conditions. This can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Many people experience mental illness following traumatic stress; this can be as a result of war, displacement, assault or violation, but can also follow bereavement, loss, accidents. There are very strong links between mental health problems and homelessness, and there are also a very large number of people in prison with mental health problems

Many of the mentally ill become unemployed, lonely, isolated and without any sense of meaning or purpose in their lives. Some cannot function normally, losing the ability to concentrate, to focus, to make decisions or actions, to take any responsibility for themselves, or to perform any of the regular everyday actions of daily life.  They often lack self-esteem, dignity or any reason for living. There can also be a close link between mental illness and substance misuse, most commonly alcohol. One can lead to the other, and result in a spiral of poverty, homelessness and despair.

When the charity SWOP was set up in 1989, figures showed that one in fourteen males and one in seven females in the UK would experience a mental illness during the course of their lives. In 2009, studies show that one in four people will have a mental health problem in any year.  Some surveys say the figure is one in three.

Mental illness can very often be triggered by stress and pressure, the chief characteristics of the modern world.  The sense of competitiveness, the need to ‘succeed’, the emphasis on the individual rather than the community, all contribute to an inability to cope, which is why we believe there should be a project like Cherry Tree in every area.


How other societies view mental illness


Cherry Tree volunteers have been working with indigenous communities in Latin America through their water projects. They have been interested to find out about the different approach to mental illness taken by indigenous people. Despite living in dire poverty, with death as a constant companion, and enduring major trauma in the form of discrimination, displacement, constant threats, attacks, violence, and aggression, the occurrence of mental illness is much lower than it is in our society.

Firstly, in a community lacking in infrastructure and resources, access to healthcare and pharmaceutical medicines, the approach to healthcare needs to be a preventive one. Secondly, all sorts of illness are seen as connected, mental and physical illness are not viewed separately, they impact on each other. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the chief means of maintaining healthcare is the community: they watch out for each other. “The best medicine for mental illness is the community.”



Often, natural, plant-based medicines are the only ones available to these communities. They believe that plants must always be harvested carefully, with respect, after first asking permission, to preserve the harmony between the people and the land.

Those members of the community who work in healthcare receive no salary, but are fed, housed and supported by the community. Their work is an honour and a duty.

‘We cannot abandon the injured or the maimed, thinking to enjoy our own safety and sanity. We must reclaim them, as they are part of ourselves’ Brian Keenan




Ecopsychology, health and community
Mental illness
Mental illness in the Bournemouth area
Talking Treatments
Personality Disorders
Bipolar Disorder
Family Friends Carers
Self Harm

Cherry Tree Nursery
Off New Road Roundabout
Northbourne, Bournemouth
Dorset, BH10 7DA
Tel: 01202-593537
Registered Charity No 900325
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