Black Dog Outdoors run local events for people who struggle with mental health and wellbeing. These events are free for attendees. All our activities are outdoors, thereby reconnecting people with nature, and include walking, climbing, cycling, bouldering, and paddle sports. Our events are run by our own dedicated team of volunteers, all of whom are qualified professionals and Mental Health First Aiders.
How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?
Providing a service that can help with suicide prevention means a lot to Blackdog Outdoors. Some of our team have lived experience of suicide. We are also aware that middle aged men are particularly at risk of suicide. With increasing research suggesting that by establishing positive connections and increasing social activity more opportunities can be made available to allow those at risk to communicate openly in a safe environment. This has a significant impact on men and helps reduce the stigma surrounding men’s mental health discussions.
Our projects, such as the one in Harrogate and Craven, aim to address these difficulties for all members of society. We are keen to support all those affected across the UK by connecting with local networks to allow for referrals for those in need. Participating in outdoor activities can improve mental health helping with:
• Better sleep
• Happier mood – physical exercise helps release feel-good hormones.
• Physical exercise releases cortisol which helps manage stress.
• Being physically active can also be a form of mindfulness giving your brain something to focus on and can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals.
• Reduces the risk of depression.
• Making new friends, group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people.
What are your current priorities?
Delivering programmes for 2021, based in Harrogate, Skipton and surrounding areas, the project is designed to provide outdoor activities to five cohorts of five people.
That programme consists of:
2 x Paddlesports sessions
2 x Hill walking sessions
1 x Introduction to Climbing session
1 x Introduction to Hill Skills session (including talks on equipment, techniques, map reading and using compass)
We will be looking to use local providers to supplement our team and in turn giving something back to the local community.
We use feedback from some of the participants of our existing programmes to develop our ongoing work. This information has been gathered from face to face conversations, post event surveys and testimonials.
Most of our current supplementary volunteer team are previous participants, who after attending several events and developing the requisite skills expressed an interest in volunteering for us.
Several of the current trustees also have lived experience of the benefits of outdoor ‘green’ exercise.
We will also work closely with local organisations, clubs and support teams to ensure a sustainable exit route is available with direct referrals for continued engagement and support. This will also give something back to the local community. To enhance this sustainable exit strategy we are currently engaging with local support groups.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Covid-19 is a clear factor for the whole of society, and will continue to be so for some considerable time. The pandemic is having a huge impact on the amount of referrals for mental health support and the demand for interventions has never been higher. This in turn means charities such as ourselves need to work with, and support, existing social care networks and VCSE's to face up to the challenges.
We do have experience of delivering our events in a Covid secure environment. All of our activities will be delivered outside and in small socially distanced groups, with the exception of the indoor climbing session when will work with the local provider to ensure that this is delivered safely and compliant with current legislation and best practice. Tier 4 areas and full lockdowns aside, we have managed to legally and safely continue to deliver our events without issue. The biggest risk to delivering any programme will be changes to legislation. To further mitigate these risks we will be using local providers to supplement our team. In addition, funding for the delivery of supported programmes will continue to be a challenge for all VCSE's, though it is hoped that by working within wider CCG and ICS networks, we can establish local partnerships and work together to face all challenges.