A new, 6-week programme of sporting activities has been launched, to support individuals diagnosed with a mental health condition navigate a safe route back into the community after months of extended social isolation imposed by the pandemic. 
Designed and managed via a partnership between Sport For Confidence CIC and the Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT) NHS Specialist Psychosis Team, the programme supports individuals, mainly men, with a diagnosis of psychosis, living in and around Colchester. 
“The pandemic has disrupted daily lives like never before. Whilst it is good news that we are now starting to emerge from enforced lockdown, for many, this presents new challenges,” explains Sophie Garratt, Occupational Therapist and Project Lead at Sport for Confidence. “Many people, including those with mental health conditions, have endured long periods of occupational deprivation and, to aid recovery and ensure their condition does not worsen, will need help reengaging with the community. This is what this programme has been designed to deliver, with occupational therapists working in close partnership with sports coaches.” 
The programme launch follows a successful pilot with ten men, aged 25-60 with a diagnosis such as psychosis. The pilot used a variety of weekly, community based, physical activity sessions to enable social interaction, community engagement, self- development, self-confidence and new skill development. As a result, all participants improved their activity levels and demonstrated positive improvements in mood, confidence, positivity and self-care. 
Sophie continues: “Physical activity provides a way to build resilience, improve health and manage mental health challenges in a positive way. It provides a non-clinical setting for interactions with health professionals which reduces the anxiety around disclosing feelings and thoughts in a clinical setting. The group breaks down barriers for clients who are struggling to engage with activities in the community due to mental health, sensory impairments, low confidence, reduced social skills and low motivation and mood.” 
Sessions will take place at various locations across the community, once a week, for 6-weeks and will include: Bowling, Farming, Footgolf, Agility with Nuture Dogs and Archery. The group will then be given the opportunity to continue engaging in physical activity with the friends they have made. 
Emma Wood, Occupational Therapy Assistant, EPUT says: “Accessing mainstream facilities can be difficult for individuals with mental health issues due to barriers created by stigma, cost, anxiety, low self-esteem, low motivation. The new sessions provide a safe and supportive non-clinical environment where participants can engage in meaningful activities, develop friendships and start to enjoy life again beyond the walls of their home. Every session will be delivered by a sports coach and supported by an occupational therapist, with participants encouraged to talk openly about how they are managing at home and any complications with their conditions.” 
Initial funding, provided by Active Colchester, will support the delivery of 3 groups of 10 individuals for a 6-week programme. Participants will be selected by health professionals in the NHS and Adult Social Care. 
If you support someone who you think would benefit from the group please contact Sophie on 07394 564941. 
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