Rockinghorse Activities Programme at Chalkhill

We’re working with Chalkhill Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit to provide activities and home comforts to young people.

Through the Rockinghorse Activities Programme, we’re able to make a big difference to young people during their treatment for mental health conditions. Located in the grounds of the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, Chalkhill is Sussex’s only mental health inpatient unit for young people.

The service is provided by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and supports over 8,750 children and adolescents each year aged between 8-16 years old. Chalkhill offers treatment and support for young people who are experiencing acute mental health and emotional difficulties, such as depression, eating disorders and psychosis.

The Rockinghorse Activities Programme was developed in 2015 and has been in place at Chalkhill every year since. It’s place in the recovery journey of young people suffering with mental health conditions has been widely recognised, receiving praise from staff, parents and young people.

Complementing the clinical and educational work of Chalkhill

Nik Mansfield, Matron at Chalkhill, explains how the programme has helped. She says, “The Rockinghorse Activities Programme has made such a difference to the support we are able to give to the young people that we work with. It really complements the clinical work and education programme that we provide.

“The activities are varied, ranging from graffiti workshops to professional cupcake decorating. We also have an enrichment programme for the young people who are able to go off-site, which include activities such as animal care and rock climbing.

“Rockinghorse’s funding has also helped us to buy self-soothe and distraction items to help young people reduce their distress. They are an important part of helping to prevent our young patients from self-harming.

“We’re so grateful to Rockinghorse for the support that they have given, and continue to give, to Chalkhill and the young people who come into hospital. Many of the youngsters we work with are inpatients, who are not yet well enough to go home for periods of leave. Generous contributions from Rockinghorse make such a difference to the experience that we are able to give them.”

Ryan Heal, Chief Executive of Rockinghorse, adds, “We believe in giving opportunities to all young people. We work closely with Chalkhill and are proud that the programme has been a resounding success and is hugely important in the recovery of young people being treated for serious mental health conditions.

“Access to leisure activities are vital to help enhance a young person’s psychological, emotional, social and physical well-being, and we’re proud to be part of that journey.”

Supporting young people like Abigail

Chalkhill have kindly shared some feedback from a young patient who has benefited from the Rockinghorse Activities Programme (*please note that we have changed her name to protect her identity) …

“From an early age Abigail* (aged 14) experienced domestic violence and neglect. Both her parents had alcohol and drug addictions, and Abigail and her sister were taken into the care of their grandparents. Throughout secondary school, she was significantly bullied by her peers, where she received abusive and threatening messages online.

“A year ago, Abigail’s mum passed away from a physical health problem as a result of taking drugs.

Abigail’s mood gradually worsened, and she found it more and more difficult to look after herself. She lost interest in the activities she used to enjoy, such as horse riding, and began to isolate herself in her bedroom at home. She was admitted to Chalkhill after attempting to end her life.

“When Abigail was admitted, she was extremely low in her mood, isolating herself from staff and other young people. She had no motivation to do anything and found it really difficult to speak to other young people, to eat or even have a shower.

“The summer holiday Rockinghorse Activities Programme had a huge impact on Abigail’s mood. With support and encouragement from staff to take part, she has engaged in a range of activities – some of which she has never had the opportunity to try before.”

Helping find hope in the midst of a crisis

“The programme has provided Abigail with structure and routine, and the opportunity to socialise with others and experience new places. It has also provided her with a distraction from her negative and suicidal thoughts. The team at Chalkhill noticed that when she was participating in activities, she found it much easier to communicate verbally with others, and this helped the team find new ways of helping her express herself.

“Through some of the arts and baking activities – including cupcake decorating with a professional chef and jewellery making – Abigail was able to find new talents and strengths. This enabled her to feel a sense of achievement and pride. Abigail was also able to enjoy trips out from the unit, such as a day out in Brighton and an afternoon of playing crazy golf.

“Over time, the programme has greatly improved Abigail’s mood and sense of well-being. Her communication and social skills have developed to help provide new opportunities, forge new friendships, and to participate in activities that have sparked new interests. Abigail continues to receive treatment and key to her recovery is building positive self-image through involvement and engagement with new things.

“One of the hardest things to come by in the midst of a mental health crisis is hope. The Rockinghorse Activities Programme at Chalkhill is absolutely integral to the care provided by young people like Abigail by kindling their interests and passions as well as giving them the opportunity to envision hopeful futures.”

We’re encouraging local companies to help support our activities programme at Chalkhill, by taking part in the 20/20 Corporate Challenge. To find out more about the initiative, please click here.