04 October 2016

Climbing magic

Climbing magicIt 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 Wiltshire Radio.

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 breakthroughs."

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 myself.

"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."  

If you would like to know more about AWP charitable funds or make a donation click here.

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