Activities to support mental health
The Covid-19 pandemic had a negative effect on people’s mental health, leaving many people feeling isolated, with physical activity being dropped from residents’ normal routine. A Chat 1st programme supporting residents living with poor mental health or those who had become socially isolated, was set up in January 2021, using physical activity as the provision.
By working with Active Essex, Chat 1st were able to secure funding from Sport England through the Tackling Inequalities fund. It was Active Essex's aim to work collaboratively with partners and organisations, such as Chat 1st to support those most inactive, to help build more resilient, inclusive communities and ensure they have the opportunities to get active.
Initially the programme was set up to deliver online classes, working with the Social Prescribing Team in Brentwood, alongside the Resource Centre, Frontline Partnership, and the Essex Community Tree. After moving to face-to-face sessions at the Brentwood Theatre and Hutton Community Centre in May 2021, the sessions utilised a peer support worker, with lived experience, who was able to signpost participants to further services when needed.
The partners involved in the programme were pivotal in referring clients to Chat 1st to help their social and mental wellbeing. Participants were surrounded by like-minded individuals and sessions consisted of Tai Chi and Yoga, which supported participants physical and mental health.
As participants were struggling with poor mental health, Chat 1st did find that participants often signed up, but failed to attend the sessions. Nonetheless, those that did take part in the course, have continued to attend paid for, main-stream classes, which has been vital for sustaining the transition on their journey to positive wellbeing.
The peer support on this project ensured that the participants got the support they needed and with instructors’ part of the Chat 1st family for 3 years, they helped guide the classes perfectly and build upon their trusted relationships with their referral partners.
The Chat 1st Yoga and Tai Chi sessions were requested locally to help people re-engage with exercise. It has been really encouraging to see the links that this programme has made with social prescribing services and the exit routes into local sessions that participants have been signposted to continue further engagement.Juliette Raison, Active Essex Relationship Manager for South West Essex