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Local garden helps veterans cope with mental health issues

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Posted at 7:20 PM, Jul 22, 2021

A local garden is making a difference in the lives of veterans living with PTSD, anxiety and depression.

"I think that it gives all of us an opportunity to go do something to take your mind off of what might be bothering you. This is kind of like to me, it's kind of like going to meditation," said veteran Bryan Pennywell.

Pennywell is the caretaker of the 860 on the Wye Community Garden. The garden is part of a housing complex for veterans managed by the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo. The veterans say it provides them with a positive outlet for stress.

"Gardens are very therapeutic. They help the veterans realize for the first time that they're wanted and needed to do something instead of just sitting in their apartment," said veteran Kevin Sargent.

Sargent says the garden helped him deal with mental health struggles he experienced after serving time in the armed forces.

"I am also dual diagnosed. I have paranoid schizophrenia too, since 1990, the VA diagnosed me with that so I had a dual combination and it was very therapeutic," Sargent said.

Pennywell also finds peace in the garden through his connection to the plants.

"Well, it's like taking myself out of the daily routine and jumping into something that needs me like I need it. And it's a serenity tactic in my head because it tells me as long as I'm giving it what it needs, it's going to return the favor," he said.

Sargent tells us he stopped tending his plot in the garden years ago but hopes to start gardening again in February.