MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Singapore Exhibition Unveils the Healing Power of Nature on Mental Health

Desmond Lee alexandra hospital

In a groundbreaking initiative, the NUHS and NUS Yeo Boon Khim Mind Science Centre (MSC) proudly opened an exhibition combining nature with mental health. The “Nature’s Embrace: A Gift to the Mind” exhibition was launched on 21 March 2024. The launch also coincides with the International Day of Forests.

This six-month public exhibition will feature interactive installations like a water feature and a life-sized tree for reflections. Alexandra Hospital’s Mind Art Experiential Lab (MAELab) is hosting this exhibition. The exhibition underscores the profound effects of green spaces on mental health. It is a collaborative effort with NParks and Alexandra Hospital.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development, was the guest of honour at the launch. He shared in his speech “This exhibition comes at an opportune moment. There is growing awareness and appreciation of the importance of mental health, in Singapore and around the world.”

The Nexus Between Green Spaces and Mental Health

Recent local studies presented at the exhibition have provided substantial evidence linking engagement with nature to significant improvements in mental health. One study involving 8,786 participants showed that regular gardening activities could markedly boost mental resilience. This is especially prevalent among older adults reaping even more benefits. Another study highlighted therapeutic horticulture’s (TH) effectiveness in improving sleep patterns, reducing anxiety, and enhancing cognitive functioning among older adults. Furthermore, research using the Contemplative Landscape Model (CLM) found that exposure to therapeutic gardens could significantly uplift mood in both healthy and clinically depressed individuals.

Exhibition Zones Designed for Psychological Well-being

The MAELab has been thoughtfully arranged into zones. Each zone is designed to elicit specific psychophysiological responses in visitors based on the Contemplative Landscape Model (CLM). The Mindful Nature Zone, with its Featured Wall depicting a serene waterfall, encourages visitors to engage in reflection and mindfulness. Subsequently, The A Stronger Mind zone, featuring a Tropical Paludarium, emphasises biodiversity and the intricate beauty of plant life. Lastly, the Nature’s Embrace zone offers a tranquil Dry Garden. It allows visitors to partake in gravel raking, fostering a sense of calm and mental clarity.

Engaging in Therapeutic Horticulture

The exhibition also allows visitors to participate in therapeutic horticulture activities such as micro-landscaping, terrarium-making, and moss art creation. These hands-on workshops aim to foster a deeper connection with nature while promoting mindfulness and psychological well-being.

Launch of a Pioneering Master’s Programme

Mr Lee also added “As we increasingly recognise the importance of mental wellness, we will need more Mental Health Practitioners to support the growing demand for mental healthcare. To expand the reach of mental healthcare, it is important that we encourage healthcare professionals, such as social workers and counsellors, to become Mental Health Practitioners.”

Coinciding with the exhibition, the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS Medicine), and the MSC are introducing the first-ever Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health & Psychotherapy (MCMHP) in East Asia. This advanced programme aims to enhance the mental health ecosystem by providing specialised clinical training to healthcare and social service professionals. The MCMHP programme is structured around Psychiatry, Public Mental Health, and Psychology Skills. It combines didactic coursework with clinical placements, offering both full-time and part-time study options.

Conclusion

The “Nature’s Embrace: A Gift to the Mind” exhibition and the launch of the MCMHP programme represent significant strides in acknowledging and harnessing the therapeutic benefits of nature for mental health. Through innovative research and education, Singapore is at the forefront of integrating green spaces and mental well-being, offering a holistic approach to psychological health that promises to enrich the lives of its citizens.

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