Our paddlesport officer, the amazing Lynne-Marie Dale, wrote an article about us for Paddler magazine. Without people like Lynne volunteering their time, energy, expertise and passion, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Big love, Lynne!
Check out her article below.
The small charity making a BIG difference
Words: Lynne-Marie Dale – Paddlesport Officer
Poor mental health continues to be a growing concern in the UK. Statistics from the 2014 APMS (Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey) have highlighted that, “Every week, one in six adults will experience symptoms of a common mental health problem.” Startlingly, the survey also highlights that, “One in five adults has considered taking their own life at some point.” It is a fair assumption that, based on these facts, many of the people reading this article will have had their lives affected by mental health issues; either directly, or indirectly through family and friends.
The good news is that as a society we are now being better informed about mental health. Numerous organisations are working hard, locally and nationally, to de-stigmatise and raise awareness of mental health issues. The challenge of promoting better mental health is being taken up by many employers and businesses. There are also several case studies investigating ways to improve mental health and emotional well-being.
Significantly, many of the mental health organisations and case studies are citing ‘green exercise’ and the ‘blue gym’ as a means of improving mental health. To me this seems an obvious link as being outdoors is my own personal coping strategy. Re-connecting people with the natural environment could also help to improve their well-being.
As the world looks towards the next steps on this long journey of living with the threat and uncertainty of a new virus, we ourselves as paddlers have become increasingly aware of our own wellbeing. How many of us have missed being out on the water? Not just missing nailing those big drops, surfing on the waves or taking ourselves out to more challenging seas and tideraces. We just want to be out on the water, anywhere near us. Just a nice relaxing paddle on a quiet flat section of river. Out in nature, wherever and whenever we can get the opportunity.
I am sure that we all appreciate the same benefits when we are out paddling, camping, climbing, or walking. It gets us away from the grindstone and the day-to-day activities that cause us frustration and stress. The liberation from the hustle and bustle of traffic, or freedom from the instant connection to technology that we seem to think we cannot live without. We learn to relax and, even if only for a short while, we find ourselves again.
For some people, going on a paddle is a competitive thing. It is something to strive towards as we challenge ourselves to improve skills and experience. For others, these same activities can have more of a spiritual meaning; simply getting out in the clean air and listening to the birds, watching the water. Whatever reason we each have for getting out, it is something that we love, and something that we love sharing with others.
So how can we, as a professional paddlesport community, help to promote improved mental health through our activities? Do we have enough knowledge of mental health issues to help support those that we share the rivers and lakes with? How do we start a conversation with someone that we suspect is struggling with their mental health?
Well, importantly, we should be mindful that unless suitably qualified we are unlikely to have a detailed knowledge of mental health, how mental health problems manifest themselves, or how to treat them. That is strictly for the professionals!
There are some simple steps that we can take though:
- We can improve our basic understanding of mental health issues and symptoms.
- We can actively promote and share our experiences, and the health benefits, through social media.
- We can encourage friends, family and colleagues to join us on a day out if we suspect that they are struggling with their mental health.
- We can volunteer to support organised events, such as canoe journeys, that are aimed at groups and individuals with poor mental health.
- We can familiarise ourselves with mental health support groups, such as MIND (www.mind.org.uk), and how to put people in contact with them.
- For those that want to take it a step further there are even formal mental health first aid qualification courses, such as those delivered by MHFA England (www.mhfaengland.org).
As a community we all have a love of the water and appreciate the health benefits of a day spent outdoors. With little effort we can use this shared passion to promote better mental health, as well as physical wellbeing, in many other people.
Black Dog Outdoors is managed by a small team of volunteers. We all share similar interests, which include climbing, walking, paddlesport, biking, and the outdoors in general. We are also extremely passionate about the promotion of outdoor exercise to improve mental health and wellbeing.
As Paddlesport Officer for the charity, I am keen to help people make the connection I myself enjoy, by just being out on the water. As most of our 2020 events have been postponed, I am now looking at the connections and events we as a charity can help organise for 2021 and beyond. Whether this be a canoe trip on the River Wye, an organised club event in the north or a SUP session in Yorkshire. My role is to encourage the paddling community to engage with those less able to paddle and to share our experience through supported events across the country.
This year’s predicament
As a coach myself, I fully understand the predicament we have all been placed in this year, with a loss of our incomes over a long period of time. This leaves us all with some uncertainty in relation to our financial positions. However, that does not change the skills we have, the boats and kit we are lucky enough to own, whether that is personally, as a BC club or as an outdoor provider or company. So, we ask ourselves, can we give one day to help host one event? To reach out our hands to those suffering with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem; can we as a charity help with a local paddle near you? To support you as a coach, or provider, to help show that your business cares about the community we are all a part of.
Since undertaking my role here at Black Dog Outdoors I have been humbled by the offers of support and help we have received thus far. Though my passion for paddling and supporting people to explore the outdoors is not satisfied. I would love to do more, and for that I need the help of the community around me.
As a national charity, the demand for events across the country is growing, but in order to satisfy that demand, we also need to grow. We would love to hear from any companies and suppliers who could assist with kit; paddlers, coaches and groups who would be interested in joining our team to help host an event in your area. If you already do similar work, how can we help you?
There are many people out there who need our support and a huge outdoor playground in which we can do it.