Dr Ralph Slaughter in the garden with his roses

Retired vet wins Mental Health Awareness Week competition with photo collection showcasing his love of gardening

An 81-year-old retired veterinary surgeon has won the Mind Matters Initiative’s Mental Health Awareness Week photo competition, launched in May this year to celebrate the theme of nature and its positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Australia-based Dr Ralph Slaughter submitted a collection of photographs called ‘Why I Am a Gardener’ in which he highlighted some of his proudest horticultural achievements and the impact that gardening has on his physical and mental health, how it allows him to demonstrate creativity and how it gives him a sense of achievement.

  • Inherited hobby from parents and grandparents
  • Good for the mind
  • Relaxation is important
  • A sense of achievement
  • Good for the environment
  • Grow your own - a source of food
  • Gardening can be artistic
  • Encourages wildlife
  • Community relationships
  • Brings people together to make connections

Dr Slaughter graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 1965 and worked for three years in mixed practice before joining the Wellcome Foundation in 1968 working in pharmaceuticals. He moved to New Zealand in 1971 where he worked for both Wellcome and Merck Animal Health before moving to Australia in 1988. He continued to work in animal health, including doing consultancy work, until retiring in 2010.

He said: “All through those years, my main hobby was gardening which was strong mental support. My main interest is growing roses and I established 14 rose gardens in four countries.

“Since retiring, gardening has been the main aspect that has to date kept me in excellent health. Though only self-taught in horticulture, I spend my time involved in assisting others by way of talks and advice to Garden Club members. As President of a group of clubs in Gippsland Victoria, I am leading a project to involve more young people, and especially those that have depression and find it hard to cope with today’s pressure and stress in society.

“For my part, as long as I can, I will put forward my own involvement with gardening as a valuable assistance to those that experience stress in the workplace.”

Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters Manager, said: “Thank you so much to Ralph Slaughter for his very colourful collection of photos of his amazing gardening skills. As he says, gardening and other forms of interaction with nature can have a profound, positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing and we are so glad to hear that he is lending his skills and knowledge to help young people experiencing stress realise this.”