Mental-health initiative wants more volunteers

Gordon Allan
Gordon Allan

A call-out is being made for volunteers to come forward and act as support buddies to help people in Northumberland with mental-health issues become physically active.

The appeal was made yesterday, as part of World Mental Health Day – a day for global mental-health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

Volunteers are wanted as part of the Being Active Matters initiative, an innovative new scheme that is looking for people who could extend a hand of friendship and buddy with someone who wants to become more physically active in order to improve their mental wellbeing.

Volunteers can commit for as many or as few hours as they wish in an activity of their choice and training will be provided. Activities could include walking, running, visits to the gym, a game of golf or even just kicking a ball around.

Every year, one adult in four, along with one child in 10, will have a mental-health issue. These conditions can impact many lives, affecting the capability of these individuals to make it through the day, to sustain relationships and to maintain work.

Gordon Allan, whose wife Sally, from Ponteland, took her own life on Boxing Day 2015, was responsible for the idea behind Being Active Matters and brought the partners and funding together.

Project champion Gordon said: “We know sport and exercise can have a really positive effect on mental as well as physical health. However, 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 support 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 would like to share with someone else, we’d love to hear from you.”

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

Northumberland county councillor Cath Homer, cabinet member with responsibility for leisure, said: “We know that the benefits of sport and exercise are not just physical. Regular physical activity is great for the mind and our mental health. It can improve mood, lift self-esteem and reduce stress.”

The Being Active Matters project is being piloted in north and west Northumberland and two members of staff have been employed to coordinate the volunteers for the project – one based in Alnwick and the other in Hexham.

Contact Karen Renner by emailing KRenner@tmnorthumberland.org.uk or calling 07483 326881