Under the Glass: News from the Greenhouse

Leah Diehl

This fall has been quiet in the greenhouse due to Covid-19. Our therapeutic horticulture sessions continue to be on pause, and we have had to keep the greenhouse closed to the public. As a result, our plants are not receiving their usual daily adoration, but Eden and Veronica, our two student employees in the greenhouse, are doing a great job of keeping them happy. I also have a couple of longtime volunteers, Pat and Jane, who come every week to help keep our plants growing. Just yesterday they began to plant seeds in preparation for our spring sale. It will be here before we know it!

I am also thrilled to report that the therapeutic horticulture program received a grant from the Love IV Lawrence Foundation – a wonderful organization working to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues and to support organizations working to make a difference in the lives of those affected by these issues.

We will use the funds they granted us for a pilot program to support students at UF who are struggling with depression, anxiety, stress and related issues. Survey data from the 2019 National College Health Assessment (ACHA, 2019) reports that in the previous 12 months:

  • 67.4% of undergraduates felt very lonely, an increase of 13% since 2015
  • 66.4% felt overwhelming anxiety, an increase of 13.3% since 2015
  • 57.5% felt of undergraduates felt hopeless, and increase of 16% since 2015
  • and 46.2% felt so depressed that it was difficult to function, an increase of 30% since 2015

To compound those alarming numbers, the ACHA (2020) released a special Covid-19 impact study reporting that between the fall of 2019 and May of 2020, depression among college students increased by 14.5%, and the negative impacts of mental/emotional health on academic performance increased by 39%.

We believe that we can help students on our campus alleviate many of these issues by using horticulture activities to explore symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression, as well as dimensions of wellness including resiliency and sustainable self-care practices. One of our goals will be to reduce the stigma that young adults may experience by building a community of support and mutual interests built upon healthy and meaningful activity. We plan to start this program in Spring 2021.

We also hope to secure additional funding for this new program so we can continue to offer our students these therapeutic and resilience-building opportunities. If you would like to get involved with or support this important group, we’d love to hear from you. And hopefully, before too long, the doors to the greenhouse will be open again.

Love IV Lawrence Foundation: https://loveivlawrence.org/
American College Health Association (2020). The impact of Covid-19 on college student well-being. Retrieved Dec. 10, 2020 from https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/Healthy_Minds_NCHA_COVID_Survey_Report_FINAL.pdf.
American College Health Association (2020). Spring 2020 Reference Group Data Report. Retrieved Dec. 10 from American College Health Association (2019). Spring 2019 Reference Group Data Report. Retrieved July 12 from https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_SPRING_2017_REFERENCE_GROUP_DATA_REPORT.pdf
American College Health Association (2015). Fall 201 Reference Group Data Report. Retrieved Dec. 10 from https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_FALL_2015_UNDERGRADUATE_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf

Elizabeth “Leah” Diehl, RLA, HTM
Lecturer, Dept. of Environmental Horticulture, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Director of Therapeutic Horticulture, Wilmot Botanical Gardens, College of Medicine