Talking Matters Northumberland and project partner Active Northumberland (with support from Northumberland Sport) has been given £142,000 of National Lottery funding from Sport England to help volunteers make a positive contribution to mental health outcomes in the county, using sport and physical activity.
Sport England’s ‘Opportunity Fund’ encourages people to volunteer to help tackle challenges their communities face. Projects are being funded in areas that may experience economic disadvantage, ranging from inner-city areas with high levels of crime and social exclusion, to remote rural areas with few services. By getting involved, the volunteers will also benefit by developing their own skills, confidence plus improved wellbeing.
About the project
The three year project will enable Talking Matters, who provide the NHS Talking Therapy service in Northumberland, to recruit volunteers from the local community to help adults with mental health issues take up a sport or physical activity. Talking Matters will employ two Volunteer Coordinators based in Hexham and Alnwick who will recruit and manage the volunteers. The volunteers will support adults of all ages, referred to them by Talking Matters or their GP. The volunteers, who will be fully trained, will provide one to one support to encourage people to participate in a sport or physical activity as a way of improving their mental health.
Steve Patterson of Talking Matters says, “There is a growing body of evidence that being physically active is good for your mental health as it can help recovery, build resilience and sustain good mental wellbeing. However, that first step is often the hardest, particularly for individuals who may be anxious, lack self confidence, worry about meeting new people or have other worries such as body image or low fitness levels. By supporting individuals on a one to one basis, the volunteers will help them find an activity that is right for them. Working together the volunteers will help people overcome their concerns and support them on their journey to full and active participation in a sport or physical activity.”
Project partners Active Northumberland will work with the volunteers, sports clubs, leisure centres and other activity providers (yoga, keep fit, walking, cycling groups etc.) to identify suitable opportunities in the local community.
As part of the project Tyneside and Northumberland Mind will provide Sport England approved ‘Mental Health Awareness for Sports and Physical Activity’ training to sports and activity providers to improve their support for individuals with mental health issues. The training will help the sports community achieve the Sport and Recreation Alliance Mental Health Charter.
Northumberland County Council has awarded the project a grant of £30,000 and further financial support has come from Northumberland Sport and Hexham and Alnwick Town Councils. Public Health Northumberland. Northumberland CCG, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear Foundation Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority have all added their support to the project. Local sports clubs and GP practices have also supported the project bid.
Northumberland County Councillor, Veronica Jones, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Adult Wellbeing and Health says, “This funding award from Sport England is really great news for the county. It provides us with a fantastic opportunity to use volunteering and social action as part of an exciting new approach to supporting adults experiencing mental health issues. Regular exercise has been proven to have a profoundly positive impact on depression and anxiety. In fact, being active is one of the most important things people can do to maintain health and wellbeing. We are looking forward to working with, and supporting all those involved in this new project.”
Sport England’s Director of Sport, Phil Smith, says, “When people volunteer in sport and physical activity there is a dual benefit – volunteers help others in their communities to get active, as well as benefiting themselves. Volunteering can do wonders for job and career prospects, mental health and making friends. That’s why volunteering sits at the heart of Sport England’s new strategy, ‘Towards an Active Nation’. We’re delighted to be helping Talking Matters and Active Northumberland to enable more volunteers to be the catalysts for change in their neighbourhood.”
The project was the brainchild of Gordon Allan who following the loss of his wife Sally in 2015 has become an advocate for improving mental health in the north east. Gordon, who lives in Northumberland, was instrumental in pulling the project together and building the support from the various stakeholders. He says, “The project has been funded by individuals through the National Lottery. We are grateful for their support and look forward to giving something back by improving mental health outcomes in the county. With the support of the local communities we believe that over three years we can help over 1,500 people. I know walking has helped me when I have been struggling to cope with the loss of Sally”.
To find out more about thee project contact Talking Matters.