Despite being widely documented, people with mental illnesses continue to experience poor physical healthcare and are dying prematurely from largely preventable conditions. Globally, patients with serious mental illness (SMI) have a reduced life expectancy of 15-25 years.
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) is partnering with previous Maudsley Charity grantee, Sporting Recovery, to maximise opportunities for their mental health service users to access sport exercise and physical wellbeing activities. The collaboration came out of Sporting Recovery’s 12-week pilot project which was well received by clients as well as occupational therapy staff at SLaM.
The Sporting Recovery Wellness Programme offers a stigma-free, welcoming environment where service users and support workers who accompany them can participate in team and individual sports.
The funding provided by Maudsley Charity will support new offerings including Tai Chi, tennis, outdoor gym and exercise sessions. The Cafe near Ladywell Fields provides opportunities for social interaction and a healthy snack. Volunteers are on hand to offer gentle nudges towards a healthier lifestyle, and instructors oversee safe and appropriate opportunities for exercise.
For those participants who are not yet willing or able to participate in physical activity, the Sports Fans Cafe has been developed initially as an online forum, allowing people to connect around a shared love of sport.
Reaching out to the community
Participation will be open to a wide cross-section of the community including:
- Inpatients from the Ladywell Unit who will have easy access to the Sporting Recovery sessions due to the location just beyond the ward.
- Physically vulnerable people within community teams who will not feel able to access community services without a supportive stepping stone that recognises their mental health complexity.
- Local people experiencing mental health issues signposted to the activity by Community Connections, a local social prescriber, reducing expectation on mental health services.
With 60 % of people in Lewisham coming from Black and Minority ethnic backgrounds, positive engagement with a project that responds authentically, passionately and proactively to the challenges within their community will challenge stigma and promote conversations about mental health.