Green dream

Liz Nicholls

Depression

The Green Hub in Milford, which has just had its first birthday, offers a vital support space for teenagers struggling with their mental health

Just one year ago you‘d find the Green Hub Project for Teens on Facebook looking for local folk to join a DIY SOS-style weekend, to transform their tranquil garden in Milford. This month the garden celebrates its first birthday.

Over its first year Green Hub Project for Teens has transformed from an idea in its embryonic stage into a confident adolescent.

The garden is the vision of local chiropractor Tone Tellefsen Hughes. “I’ve seen so much trauma through my clinic in recent years,” she says. “But since Covid, it’s become unimaginably bad, so many young people experiencing a tough time – it’s heart-breaking. This is why we are reaching out to families with teens struggling with low to moderate social anxiety, stress and overwhelm.”

Tone’s co-chair, local business coach Vanessa Lanham-Day, has been instrumental in creating the momentum behind the project. “The garden and teen volunteering is such a simple concept – it’s all about providing time out in nature and calm.

But, for the teens to benefit from time spent in the garden, there has been a whole machine that needed to be created. We have been busy spreading the word as well as building relationships with GPs, schools and youth organisations – but the most passionate requests come from parents themselves.

Teens spend up to 12 weeks becoming garden volunteers, under the guidance of adult leaders – there are morning and afternoon sessions (all free) each Saturday for up to eight teens. The process isn’t “therapy” problems aren’t discussed, and no advice is given – but the process is undoubtedly therapeutic.

Tone adds: “Science shows that being in nature allows the brain to calm down and settle a little, like a busy snow globe when the snow falls. When you immerse yourself in an activity – especially in nature – your brain is unable to do anything else and this gives the busy teenage brain a chance to rest and make sense of what’s been going on in their world. There are long term benefits after a garden session, as well as finding a connection which has been so sorely missed since the pandemic for so many.”

Tone and Vanessa would also like to find other garden spaces to extend the programme.

Parents who want to refer a teen to the project should visit greenhub.org.uk/parent-refer

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Bollywood bliss

Round & About

Depression

Shalini Bhalla, a well-known Cranleigh resident and director of local Bollywood dance-fitness company Just Jhoom!, has just published a revealingly honest book about her mental health and relationship with late husband Jeremy Lucas.

Shalini dancing Indian classical style
Shalini dancing Indian classical style

Shalini Bhalla, finds solace in traditional Indian dancing and focusing on mindful practice, as a coping mechanism when life gets tough and her mental health suffers. She says: “I used dance, mindfulness and meditation, nutrition and healing to bring (and keep) my mind, body and spirit into alignment.”

She founded Just Jhoom! based upon the joy principal and engaging others in the fun of Bollywood style dancing. Shalini is also an accredited mindfulness teacher and developed an online four-week introductory course into mindful practice -Mindfulness for Beginners.

She feels that this training in mind, body and spirit helped her cope and deal with the impact of losing her husband Jeremy Lucas in 2016, due to cancer. Dancing and focusing didn’t lessen the grief, just helped her to cope, and Shalini took to writing about her feelings in a self-published book, Always With You.

Shalini's lifeThis book is about Shalini’s personal battles with mental illness, the coping strategies she relied upon to regain a positive mental state after severe depression and the loss of Jeremy to cancer. In this emotive memoir, Shalini writes about her experiences of depression, attempted suicide as well as family estrangement, and struggles with religion and national identity.

Shalini wrote the book so she could share her story with others, offering an inspiring message of recovery and renewal as she looks to face the future with strength, hope and anticipation.

Shalini’s positive message has led her to be chosen as a “Voice of MIND” – campaigning for better mental health provision in the UK. She has spoken in the Houses of Parliament to MPs about wellbeing and mental health resilience.

Shalini has lived in Cranleigh for 18 years and been involved in village life, with Just Jhoom! and Mindfulness classes, over that time. Her late husband had lived in the area all his life and his untimely passing, aged 59, left a gaping hole in the community.

Jeremy and Shalini in Samburu
Jeremy and Shalini in Samburu

The pair also had a shared love of Kenya and its people, culture and wildlife, Shalini established an education fund: The Jeremy Lucas Education Fund, initiated in 2017, it has raised just over £42,000 and is sponsoring 12 children to attend secondary and tertiary education in Kenya.

Always With You is available on Shalini Bhalla website www.justjhoom.co.uk or Amazon.