Bridgeport group uses garden space to promote positive mental health
A Bridgeport community group is using a garden space to promote mental health awareness by offering people a place to plant.
The nonprofit Bridgeport Community Land Trust says it is taking an approach to help people cultivate a positive mindset this May for Mental Health Awareness Month.
Group members say they are using a community garden on State Street in the West End of Bridgeport.
Michael Weitzman, 63, says he spent most of his life suffering from severe chronic depression. It got so bad a few years ago he tried to take his own life.
But Weitzman says once he discovered the therapeutic benefits of gardening -- how it helped him detach from the stress of his everyday routine, his appreciation for life deepened, and for the first time ever, his long-term mental health recovery began to take root.
Weitzman went on to become a well-known mental health advocate and speaker, using humor to help people heal. All of it, he says, stemmed from his personal growth as a gardener.
"And I feel like, wow, that's my baby over there. I've been nurturing it, I've been working on it just like I do when people are struggling with their mental health, addiction or suicide," he said.
Bob Halstead heads up the garden, which he says plays a crucial role on the City's West End.
"That's important for recreation, for nutrition. It gives people a sense of empowerment that they can have an influence over how their neighborhood looks," said Halstead.
Halstead is now calling on local residents to take advantage of this urban oasis which he says has been a hidden treasure here for far too long.
They are encouraging people to claim plots at the garden and to grow fresh produce as part of an effort to advocate for more healthy eating habits — all while promoting mental health.