04 October 2016
It may have been crash mats in place of red carpet, but
the Swindon early intervention in psychosis (EI) climbing project
was the centre of well-deserved media attention recently.
Both BBC Points West and BBC Wiltshire Radio joined the climbing
group at Cricklade Leisure Centre to see the benefits first-hand -
also making a fitting finale for this summer's Don't Ignore Your
Mental Health focus on psychosis. After filming
service users and EI staff climbing together on the indoor wall,
project lead Andy Davenport and EI service users Mark and Pat were
interviewed by Martin from BBC Points West and Ben from BBC
The climbing project, which has gone from strength to strength
since being awarded AWP charitable funds in the first Bright Ideas
competition, was the brainchild of Andy Davenport.
Andy said, "Climbing is a multifaceted activity that can really
help people to overcome their first experience of psychosis. Trust
is key to recovery and climbing is a brilliant way to learn to
trust others as well as experiencing others putting their trust in
you. Climbing also teaches problem solving - another important
factor in mental health recovery - and builds a supportive peer
network. People also tend to speak much more freely and openly
during activities such as climbing, which can provide valuable
opportunities for clinical insights and therapeutic
The members of the group have become highly proficient climbers
and several have recently trained as group climbing leaders. During
the session two student nurses on placement with the EI team, both
new to climbing, were taking on increasingly tricky climbs under
the guidance of more experiences service users. Andy observed,
"Teaching others alongside improving their own skills is an amazing
confidence-builder and generates a big sense of achievement."
And then this AWP reporter experienced a bit of the EI climbing
magic first-hand. After some gentle coaxing from Andy I donned a
harness and, following a safety check from Pat, had a go for
"How did that feel?" Andy asked.
"Terrifying, scary… brilliant!" my slightly shaky reply.
Andy concluded, "So imagine those feelings but amplified many
times. That's what our service users - who usually have low
self-esteem and may be experiencing voices, paranoia, anxiety,
disillusional beliefs, hallucinations - feel when they first climb,
and it takes courage and strength to overcome that. And they can
use their ability to overcome that to learn to manage their fears
and distract themselves from distressing symptoms by focusing their
attention on the activity. Now look at how confident and competent
they are, and how much they're getting out of it."
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