The Role of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality to Eco-therapy and Mental Health

"By reconnecting to nature, we can re-find ourselves that may have been carried away by our daily busyness" - Bhylla Malihah, student of the Indonesia’s Agriculture Institute and member of The International Association of students in Agricultural and related Sciences (IAAS) – Indonesia branch

“Proud to witness the attention of the agriculture students about our mental health in the pandemic; concurrently they recommend ways to maintain the mental health through reconnection with nature” – Jak-LNV

According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) survey conducted from June to August 2020 among 130 countries across WHO’s six regions, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide. The demand for mental health continues increasing as bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. The COVID-19 may lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection, as they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death.

A survey in Indonesia last year found that the proportion of people with symptoms of depression during the Covid-19 pandemic reached 35 percent. This figure is five to six times higher than the depression in the general population based on the 2018 Basic Health Research. The number is also two to three times greater than the depression in other non-pandemic disasters in the country. (University of Indonesia’s Mahadata Synergy Response team to Covid-19 UI)

The students discussed on the importance of nature in improving our mental health, perspectives on eco-therapy, as well as the benefits of practicing eco-therapy for improving the mental health. This event aims to showcase the importance of keeping the nature healthy, to discuss alternative ways to recover from mental health especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and in association with the upcoming World Mental Health Day on October 10.

Mental health

The Netherlands Clinical Psychologist, Sasja Breit, and Australian expert Geoffrey Noel Berry from the International Ecopsychology Society (IES) shared their knowledge about eco-therapy and its benefits for mental health as well as heavy burden many experience on the isolation caused by the pandemic. During the Focus Group Discussion, participants were invited to share about what’s bothering them mentally and discussed on how they dealt with issues to keep their mental healthy. Subsequently the results of the groups’ discussion were presented as inspiring thoughts and kind reminder to all participants.

This virtual discussion was held by the IAAS Conversation Club Goes to External (IGTE) from the International Association of Student in Agricultural and Related Sciences Local Committee (IAAS LC) of the Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) On August 7th, 2021. The Netherlands Embassy in Jakarta played a part to the event through the Dutch Clinical Psychologist from Pondok Indah International Counseling, Mr. Sasja Breit. He discussed the importance of “Eco-therapy: How Nature Improves Mental Health”. IPB and IAAS students in Indonesia have been our key stakeholders in agriculture topics. Close cooperation is established between the embassy and IPB that has created a number of joint agricultural projects as well as visits of high levels.

Bhylla Malihah, the Project Leaders of IGTE said that as social beings, we must be connected with our surroundings, which include ourselves and the nature. In her opinion, building a strong relationship with nature is one way to love ourselves, as the nature has many benefits to enriched our lives. Another student Hanifa Dermawan, who is also the Executive Committee of IAAS LC said that one of the efforts to maintain mental health is to increase our awareness related to the implementation of eco-therapy in daily life.

With the statements of the youth we shall be more inspired to intensify the health of our natural environment, our forests, our agriculture farms, and nutritious food generated from the healthy nature.