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Friday, 14 May 2021

Getting close to nature – Trust encourages patients to get stuck in while mucking out at London Zoo

Getting close to nature – Trust encourages patients to get stuck in while mucking out at London Zoo

Staff and patients from Seacole ward at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust made the most of the nature theme of mental health awareness week this week with a trip to London Zoo.

The last year has been difficult for everyone, but patients on the Trust’s OCD ward (Seacole Ward) have struggled to continue with various therapeutic methods to treat their OCD. The therapy for many patients involves being exposed to dirt and germs, so that they can get used to the anxiety and fight the OCD, but Covid has meant these activities had to stop. It has been difficult to come up with different ideas for activities during the pandemic, and the general mood on the ward has been affected.

To beat the blues and to celebrate the Mental Health Week’s theme of Nature, the team at Seacole has worked together with the amazing team at ZSL to provide a fun day of intensive therapy (CBT with Exposure and response prevention) at London Zoo. Participants were divided into small groups and given activities such as involve mucking out the alpaca goats, the Lamas and the camels and the hippo moat!

Dr Ilenia Pampaloni, Consultant Psychiatrist, said: “It’s been a difficult year for the patients on Seacole Ward. It has been very difficult to carry out the therapy programmes, which usually involve exposure to dirt and germs so this trip was a fantastic opportunity to get “anti-OCD” and get everyone back on track on their way to recovery and lift their spirits. Love for nature and animals can have an enormous transformative and therapeutic effect and can be a great motivator. Our patients were enthusiastic to get their hands dirty. We are extremely grateful to the team at ZSL for supporting our patients in this wonderful experience.”

Alexi 26,  said "It was my first time at London Zoo. One of  best things of the day for me was seeing the expressions on my friends faces and on staff faces, and seeing that they were having a fantastic time together. It has formed a unique memory that I will never forget and will be a once in a lifetime experience for me.

"It really helped having the zoo staff with us, they were so friendly and responding to all the questions we had to ask about the animals. It was inspiring and refreshing seeing people in a unique line of work, volunteering for animals. They were very patient with us and gave the group a lot of time and respect, and they gained our respect too.

"I enjoyed seeing the monkeys and the other animals for the first time in person, and to know that they are looked after so well was very nice to see.

"Mucking out the pigmy hippos was the highlight for me and it was such an nice experience to see the patients and staff working together to complete what was asked from us. We got dirty together!! Initially everyone was anxious, but then we were made to feel more comfortable. Seeing staff having a go at it made us want to have a go and have some fun together!

"Everyone’s needs are different and everyone had a different pace, but we were feeding on each other’s strengths and pushing through, and at the end we did not want to leave!  

"It was lovely to sit down with staff and have food together in the beautiful setting of the zoo. You might be able to get to the zoo again but you cannot buy the experience - full of laughter and joy-  of being all together .

"The main things I learnt from the animals were  being playful, not taking ourselves too seriously and enjoy the simple things in life!"



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