NHS-funded ‘surfing for mental health’ project launches in Dorset
DORSET HealthCare is funding a £10,000 pilot scheme to explore the use of surfing as a form of therapy for children and young people with mental health difficulties.
The Trust has teamed up with The Wave Project, a not-for-profit community interest company, which has run a series of similar successful surfing projects in Cornwall and Devon. It is the first time the NHS has funded such a project in Dorset and it’s hoped the pilot will provide a blueprint for future schemes using surfing as a form of mental health therapy.
The project has been unveiled on World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September), which seeks to raise awareness of mental health issues and reduce the number of suicides globally.
Wave Project chief executive Joe Taylor explains: “The involvement of a respected NHS Trust in this pilot is an important signal of how interventions such as surfing are being taken seriously as innovative ways of improving mental health.
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“Our work over the past three years demonstrates that a combination of surfing and peer-mentoring helps children and young people overcome core problems such as low confidence, poor self-esteem and anxiety - which are often the building blocks of mental illness.”
The Wave Project uses a combination of professional surf instructors and volunteer peer mentors to run lessons for young people with diagnosed mental health needs. Clients meet in small groups at a surf school and are allocated their own mentor who helps them learn to surf and overcome barriers to enable them to enjoy a fun experience.
Participants on the pilot scheme are all between eight and 21 years of age, and have been referred into the scheme by professionals working in mental health and social services, primary schools and family services.
James Barton, director of mental health services at Dorset HealthCare, added: “There is a strong and well recognised correlation between physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing and, with our beautiful coastline in Dorset, this is an ideal initiative to appeal to young people who are displaying the early signs of mental health problems. By tackling such issues at the early stages, we can help to prevent greater problems arising in the future.”