The Rockinghorse Activities Programme

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In 2015, we funded a pilot activities scheme for young people who are cared for at Chalkhill Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit (Chalkhill) in Haywards Heath.

Run by the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Chalkhill is the only in-patient hospital for children and young people in Sussex with complex mental health problems. Opened in 2009, the unit provides day care, outreach, and – where absolutely necessary and appropriate – in-patient services for young people with a range of mental health illnesses. These include eating disorders, emotional based needs, depression and early-onset psychosis.

Named ‘The Rockinghorse Activities Programme’, the scheme proved to greatly complement the clinical work of the unit as well as the school’s education programme. It has helped young people to increase their self-esteem and confidence, improving their health and well-being and has developed skills beneficial for education, vocational training and independent living upon leaving the unit.

Following the success of the scheme, Rockinghorse have provided funding for the activities programme to continue throughout 2016 and into 2017. This funding will also see the introduction of a partnership with Plumpton College, to support young people aged 16-18 from Chalkhill, which will specialise in their re-engagement with education and training.

Rockinghorse Chief Executive, Ryan Heal and Head of Fundraising, Analiese Doctrove, joined Rachael Duke and Stephanie Hutton from the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, at Plumpton College for an official cheque presentation (pictured above) and to see first-hand how the activities funded by Rockinghorse are helping to make a difference to young people from Chalkhill.

Rachael Duke from the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, says: “Our activities programme is carefully designed to help provide structure to the young people’s days alongside clinical work and attendance at our school. Young people participate in activities that they believe will be purposeful and meaningful, helping them to achieve their goals which are set during their admission to Chalkhill. The therapeutic activities programme is a year round timetable which is increased during the school holidays.”

1 in 10 children and young people in the UK aged 5-16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that’s around three children in every school class. Whilst the majority of young people in Sussex who need mental health support receive it through their GP’s, or from locally-based mental health teams, there are some young people with more complex needs who require more specialist or intensive treatment. This may be because of the complexity of their condition, or the risk of harm to themselves – these young people are cared for at Chalkhill.

Prior to admission to Chalkhill, many of the young people have been unable to attend school, experienced bullying and have lost contact with friends. Family relationships can also be strained, which have affected the young people’s self-esteem and confidence, leaving them feeling extremely isolated. One of the biggest challenges they face is how to start managing their own time again, following a period of being very unwell where they have often withdrawn from the world. Part of their recovery is learning how to occupy their time again and be with other people.

Research has shown that leisure activities are vital for the recovery of people with mental health needs, helping them to enhance their psychological, emotional, social and physical well-being. Around 115 young people are cared for at Chalkhill each year by a team of nurses, support workers, occupational therapists, doctors and teachers who are all there to support them as part of their recovery process.

We’ve launched our Summer of Sport appeal 2016 which is raising funds to extend The Rockinghorse Activities Programme to other centres we support. These include children cared for at Tudor House respite centre in Brighton, and Drove Road residential home in Portslade, as well as committing to further sessions for Chalkhill beyond next year.

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