Marathon challenge for mental health

Throughout the 2019 marathon season, we’re focussing our support on young people with mental health illnesses in Sussex…

We believe in giving opportunities to all young people which is why we work closely with Chalkhill Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit in Haywards Heath, by funding the Rockinghorse Activities Programme.

Located in the grounds of the Princess Royal Hospital, Chalkhill is Sussex’s only mental health inpatient unit for young people. The service supports over 8,750 children and adolescents each year aged between 8-16 to aid their treatment for serious mental health conditions.

With the support of our marathon and challenge event runners this year, we’re pledging to fund the Rockinghorse Activities Programme throughout 2019. Each and every one of our participants will directly make a difference to young people through their fundraising, and we think that’s something pretty special.

The Rockinghorse Activities Programme was launched in 2015 and has proven to be a great success, complementing the clinical work of the unit and their education programme. Access to leisure activities are vital in the recovery of young people with mental health needs, helping them enhance their psychological, emotional, social and physical well-being.

Chalkhill has kindly shared with us 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. Then, 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 has 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.

The programme has provided her 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.

By taking part in a challenge event for Rockinghorse this year, you can help us make a difference. To find out more about our upcoming challenges and how you can get involved, please click here.

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