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This week, from 13-19 May, marks Mental Health Awareness Week. This year, 2024, the Mental Health Foundation has set a theme of ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health.’ Across our Mental Health division, here’s how we’re keeping moving:

Having fun on the water: As long-time fitness fans will attest, to keep motivated, shake up your routine and have fun! So when Naomi, whom we support in Bolton, Lancashire, asked for support to go paddle-boarding, her team were very keen to get involved.

“At first, Naomi (pictured above) was petrified,” says her senior service manager, Joanne McParland. “However, to overcome this, we got on a shared board, and she loved it! She never stopped smiling all day. We both slept well that night.”

Taking up archery: Exercise doesn’t always have to mean breaking a sweat! Chloe, whom we support in Warrington, Cheshire, has taken up target practice with a bow and arrow. To prioritise her mental health, Chloe, pictured above, also practices basketball, walking football, and dancing at a local arts centre.

Chloe’s service manager, Rebecca Rae, says: “Chloe’s resilience is a shining example of the power of perseverance and the importance of finding healthy outlets for managing mental health.”

Going to the gym and walking the dog: Riley, whom we support in Preston, Lancashire, maintains an active fitness routine: going to the gym, running, yoga, and walking his dog, Lyra. Yet for Riley, pictured above, keeping fit isn’t always easy. He has epilepsy and Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS), a condition that causes an abnormal increase in heart rate after sitting up or standing up. Despite these challenges, Riley’s committed to feeling better through exercise.

“I absolutely love lifting weights,” says Riley. “I find it very similar to a meditation because I just forget about everything else and focus on my reps and form.”

“I’ve found exercise to be both a good distraction and a way to bring me to a more grounded state,” he adds.

… And going to the gym with someone else for support: In the past, Ryan, whom we support in Bedworth, Warwickshire, had practiced boxing – and wanted to get back in the ring. For Ryan, the prospect of signing up to a gym and then going alone was daunting.

Thankfully, Ryan’s support worker, AJ, offered to support him to go to the gym, and the two now box together! Ryan’s Scheme Manager, Vicky Taylor, says that Ryan loved to be back at the gym.

“Upon his return, he wore the biggest smile and enthusiastically shared his positive experience with everyone, reflecting the significant impact of this outing on his well-being,” says Vicky.

Taking a simple walk: Fitness can be simple as stepping outside. Charlie and Niall, whom we support in Hereford, Worcestershire, find that taking walks does wonders for their mental health.

For Charlie, pictured above, “exercise makes him more focused and helps him to manage any feelings he has, such as anger or anxiety,” says Charlie’s Interim Scheme Manager, Daniel Philips.

Meanwhile, Niall finds that taking a walk “helps the endorphins” (chemicals the brain produces to cope with pain or stress). “Niall also feels it helps to keep him occupied and his mind focused,” adds Daniel.

‘A timely reminder’

Richard Cunningham, Service Development Director, says that Mental Health Awareness Week is a ‘timely reminder’ to get moving.

“We’ve all had times when we felt out of sorts - frustrated, anxious, or just simply grumpy,” says Richard. “But then, either by accident or design, we’ve felt the benefits of exercise and moving.

“The theme of 2024’s Mental Health Awareness Week is a timely reminder to us all - particularly in Lifeways’ Mental Health division - to follow these excellent examples of being more active.”

“To quote an obscure, almost unheard-of American sports brand, just do it!”

For more insights into mental health support, listen to a podcast recorded for World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2023 with Mark Spraggs, the Managing Director of Mental Health at Lifeways.


About Lifeways:

Lifeways is the UK’s largest team of support professionals providing support for adults in the community.

We support adults with diverse and complex needs, including learning disabilities, autism, physical disabilities, acquired brain injuries, and mental health conditions.

Lifeways delivers support across three divisions: supported living, residential, and mental health support.

Our 11,000 colleagues currently support around 4,000 individuals who live in our 1,500 supported living and residential services across England, Scotland, and Wales. 

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