Pedalling the way to improved mental health
Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2022
Wheels set in motion to support mental health
L-R: Amy Fletcher-Occupational Therapy Assistant Practitioner, Tommy Whiteside, Clinical Support Worker, George Simpson Occupational Therapy Assistant Practitioner and Kevin Jamieson Specialist Occupational Therapist.
NHS Lanarkshire staff have set the wheels in motion to support the mental health of a group of patients by setting up the Trail Therapy Project – a programme empowering patients to tackle stimulating mountain biking trails across Lanarkshire.
The bike group was developed by mental health nursing and occupational therapy (OT) staff in partnership with Scottish Cycling. Already, it has supported a number of NHS Lanarkshire inpatient and community patients to take up this exciting sport and improve their mental health.
The project is moving through the gears, so much so, one patient is now fully trained as a leader within the programme, along with six staff members who have completed their Mountain Bike Leadership Training.
Participating patients build their cycling skills and confidence, and have even grasped the opportunity to ride the dedicated mountain bike trails at a world class venue; Glentress in Peebles. Alongside mountain biking, there is also the opportunity to learn how to repair and maintain their bikes.
Susan Cairns, advanced practitioner occupational therapist, NHS Lanarkshire, said: “I’m thrilled with how the Trail Therapy Project has developed and supported patients since it launched.
“The majority of patients have now purchased their own bikes and are cycling out with the group times, it has also given staff the skills to use cycling as a treatment activity for relevant patients.
“One of our patients was loaned a bike as part of his occupational therapy treatment as a way of coping, which he used when experiencing increased symptoms of anxiety. He has reported a reduction in the use of his medication since this was introduced which is fantastic.
“We’re continually developing the programme to include bike maintenance classes, maintaining bikes for local schools and lending bikes to patients for one-to-one sessions.
“The big goal for this year is for the group to ride the trails at the Nevis Range mountain experience, the highest in the UK, which I’m sure they’ll triumph!”
Patient turned qualified mountain bike leader, James, said: “Before I joined the programme, I was an inpatient. I was introduced to Trail Therapy through the OTs, and I’ve never looked back!
“I started to enjoy my cycling more and more, from there I was asked if I’d like to become a mentor, and that’s where I am today. I feel brilliant being able to support others, participants know I started from where they are now and I think they look up to me in a way. Recovery to me is about progress rather than perfection.”
Marie McKeown, green health partnership manager, NHS Lanarkshire, added: “The project is a fantastic and innovative way to improve people’s physical and mental health. There are so many positive aspects including the social side which allow people to get out and enjoy cycling together, along with many green health benefits that come with being outdoors.”