Peony Garden provides lessons on mental health, community


As the days grow warmer, thousands of stalks are breaking through the soil and stretching skyward in the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden.

The flowers’ growth illustrates an important lesson about support.

“What happens is that some peony stalks droop,” said Doug Conley, head gardener. “So we may tie the bush together with twine so the individual stalks hold each other, like a big hug. It helps the entire plant bloom.”

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, university health and well-being experts encourage each member of the faculty and staff community to reach out and support one another.

Social connectedness is closely connected to mental and emotional health.

“Our community is better when mental health is a priority. So let’s all be there for each other, with empathy, compassion and respect,” said Preeti Malani, U-M’s chief health officer. “By showing support for one another, we can build strong relationships that offer comfort in difficult times and help us all grow our own well-being.”

When people feel connected, they have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Feeling connected also helps create more empathy between one another, and that leads to stronger relationships across the community.

“Compassion is a gift you can give to your colleagues and loved ones,” said Kelcey Stratton, resiliency and well-being services program manager at Michigan Medicine. “Acknowledge your shared stress and fatigue, and let them know that they are not alone. We could all use extra support and kindness in our lives. And if you need to talk, we are always here for you.”

Support is available year-round for all faculty and staff. Personal counseling is confidential, short-term and always available at no charge. University faculty, staff, retirees and their adult family members are eligible.

Plus, online mental health screenings are available, as well as more information about health plan benefits, and upcoming support groups and workshops on the UHR website.


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