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Lend a hand to help people with mental-health issues get active

From left: Gordon Allan, Jo Ludbrook (lead ' Alnwick), Helen Brown (volunteer co-ordinator West Northumberland), Karen Renner (volunteer co-ordinator North Northumberland) and Steve Patterson (Service Manager). Picture by Chris White
From left: Gordon Allan, Jo Ludbrook (lead ' Alnwick), Helen Brown (volunteer co-ordinator West Northumberland), Karen Renner (volunteer co-ordinator North Northumberland) and Steve Patterson (Service Manager). Picture by Chris White

An innovative new scheme that aims to help people with mental-health issues to become physically active is looking for volunteers in Northumberland to act as support buddies.

The idea for the Being Active Matters project was started by Gordon Allan, from Ponteland, whose wife Sally took her own life on Boxing Day in 2015.

Now, the scheme is looking for helpers who could buddy with someone who wants to become more physically active to improve their mental wellbeing.

This could be walking, running, visits to the gym, a game of golf or kicking a ball around.

You can volunteer for as many hours as you wish in an activity of your choice and training will be provided.

The project is being piloted in Alnwick and Hexham and two members of staff have been employed to coordinate the volunteers.

Being Active Matters has received £142,000 funding from Sport England and £30,000 from Northumberland County Council, with further support coming from Alnwick and Hexham town councils.

Project champion Gordon said: “We know sport and exercise can have a positive effect on mental and physical health. But that first step to becoming physically active can often be daunting, particularly for individuals who may be anxious and lacking in self-confidence.

“We are recruiting volunteers to help individuals on a one-to-one basis to identify an activity that is right for them and assist them to overcome any barriers to participation.

“If you have an activity you’d like to share with someone, we’d love to hear from you.”

Project partner Active Northumberland is working with Talking Matters – which provides the NHS-funded talking therapy service – to identify what opportunities are available for individuals in their local community.

For more details, contact Karen Renner (07483 326881 / KRenner@tmnorthumberland.org.uk) or Helen Brown (07483 991835 / HBrown@tmnorthumberland.org.uk).