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Improving mental health through social prescribing

75 K7995 Exeter Oct2011

In reaction to the global pandemic, we have clung to nature and escaped to the great outdoors like never before. This has only highlighted further the importance of open spaces for our mental health and wellbeing and brought the initiative of social prescribing to the fore.

Social prescriptions connect people to local community groups such as canoe clubs for practical and emotional support. The idea of such prescriptions, is that they provide people with time to focus on ‘what matters to me’ and take a holistic approach to the health and wellbeing of individuals. This method of treatment works for a wide range of people, including:

 ●Those with one or more long-term conditions

●Those who need support with their mental health

●Those who are lonely or isolated

●Those who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.

 By referring service users to these providers, the strain is removed from frontline care and social care.

These community groups exist in every area of the UK and British Canoeing Clubs in all main regions. So, how can we as paddlers, Coaches and Clubs get involved in the provision of social prescription referrals?

Referrals are made by Link Workers and Social Care Teams to their local groups and clubs, allowing individuals to be gradually introduced to an outdoor activity. Organisations such as Blackdog Outdoors help by connecting clubs with referring partners to enable referrals to be undertaken in an approved manner.

Clubs can play a vital part in the growth of this supportive network, but how do you do this and what do you need to consider?

It is true to say that many clubs have experienced a difficult 12 months and historically have had little mental health training for volunteers and staff, if any at all. Sport England and Mental Health England supply a variety of online courses in mental health training which would help adopt an ethos of ‘See-Say-Signpost’ within clubs. By educating our clubs, together we can increase the knowledge and support for our local communities.

 Wellbeing weekends or supported paddles, can make all the difference in providing an individual with a sustainable and positive intervention. By introducing them to the amazing feelings we all enjoy when out on the water as well as that mindfulness we connect with on the rivers, lakes, canals and oceans.

 The benefits for the individual are clear; by introducing them to a local club, they are provided the opportunity to find community, connect with nature and continue on a positive journey, both physically and mentally. 

 Blackdog Outdoors are supporting clubs to connect with their local community in a way that remains sustainable for all involved.

Lynne-Marie Dale is the Social Prescription Coordinator for Blackdog Outdoors and says: “For me as a British Canoeing Coach and Social Prescription Coordinator for Blackdog Outdoors, I can think of no better way than us working together as Coaches, Clubs and with the support of British Canoeing and its members.”

David was one of those people supported by Lynne at Blackdog Outdoors and social prescribing. Having struggled with depression for several years, leaving the house became increasingly difficult to do resulting in relapses back into long periods of depression. However, after just 15 minutes of kneeling on a paddleboard taking in the environment with Lynne, David felt able to talk and explore freely. He sent this message to Lynne some days later:

Thank you so much for today! I honestly will never forget it! I had such a great time. Up until now the only activity that could ever bring me so much peace was mountain biking but when you’re feeling low it takes so much effort to pull yourself up and out that I don’t end up managing it, so today was a game changer for me. I’ve finally found an activity where I can find that peace without having to fire myself down a mountain. I cannot tell you how much this will help in the future and I’m really excited about getting out again.”


Why not have a discussion with your club and find out how you can get involved by contacting Lynne here.