For Mental Health Awareness Week (13th-19th May 2019), BH Live is putting the city’s health and wellbeing high on its agenda.
Over the past 12 months more than 100 Portsmouth residents have taken part in close to 4,000 hours of health and wellbeing activities through Portsmouth Interaction; provider of recreation and fitness activities for people with mental health conditions.
This is 11% more people than in previous years and can be attributed to better awareness of support services and a 160% increase in GP and self-referrals. There is also a better understanding of the relationship between physical activity, social interaction and good mental health.
Collaboration between healthcare providers, the NHS, Portsmouth City Council and organisations such as Solent Mind, is helping to break down the stigma associated with mental health conditions. Together they share an ambition through a newly formed Portsmouth Anti Stigma Partnership to promote mental health awareness and get more people onto a path of recovery.
Portsmouth Interaction is run by BH Live and supported by a team of experienced volunteers and partners. Weekly swimming, cycling, arts and crafts, walking, conservation, bowling and snooker run across Portsmouth’s leisure centres, green spaces and in community venues. Walking basketball, badminton, gym sessions and table tennis also run at Wimbledon Park Sports Centre.
Kerry Morgan who manages the service for BH Live explains why it is a lifeline to so many people across the city. She said, “Increasingly mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and stress, will affect many of us at some point in our lifetime and in Portsmouth the suicide rate is significantly higher than the England average. We are going some way towards improving mental health in our community. However, we want to reach more people and make an even bigger difference.”
The UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week has been run by the Mental Health Foundation since 2001. It focuses on topics such as stress, relationships, loneliness, sleep, alcohol and friendship. This year the campaign is concentrating on body image.
Kerry explains, “Some medication can cause side effects such as weight gain and tiredness which can slow recovery and create feelings of self-consciousness. Many people try to camouflage their feelings, avoid social situations and cope on their own which increases feelings of isolation.”
Regular exercise and physical activity is proven to help with much of this and Kerry believes this is one of the reasons the sessions with Portsmouth Interaction are so popular. She said, “Because our sport, recreation and exercise sessions are run in safe spaces people can focus on what they are doing without the added pressures of feeling looked at or judged.
Speaking with others who are either going through, or have gone through, similar experiences is also hugely beneficial. This is encouraging more people onto a path of recovery which will ultimately reduce pressures on healthcare service providers and result in healthier communities.”
Dr Jason Horsley, Director of Public Health at Portsmouth City Council, adds; "People suffering with mental health problems, such as anxiety or stress, may feel like exercise is the last thing that they want to be doing but it can make such a positive difference.
The added benefit of the service that Portsmouth Interaction offers is that you can take part in fitness activities alongside people who understand what it's like to be suffering with poor mental health. This combination of peer support and being active should really help people to boost their mental wellbeing."
Find out more about Mental Health Awareness week at mentalhealth.org.uk.
Residents are also invited to visit Portsmouth’s Mountbatten Leisure Centre on Wednesday 15 May between 10am-4pm to chat with the Portsmouth Interaction team about mental health support services in the city.