For those with mental health challenges it can throw up a whole heap of challenges that most of us may take for granted. Finding and retaining jobs can be particularly difficult. Friendships and relationships can be harder to find, resulting in loneliness, facing stigma and discrimination and lack of understanding of their experiences from others.
As a result it can make independent travel and participation in activities stressful; and may not have easy access to opportunities to realise their potential to be creative or to contribute to the community. This is where the value of time away with others, in contact with nature and adventure, can be… well invaluable. Bridge Collective is a social enterprise set up as a community interest company offering opportunities for social contact and mutual support, learning, teaching, discussion and being active.
Back in the summer they organised a residential weekend that included walking and nature watching, art and craft activities using natural materials and inspired by the natural environment, camp fire cooking, and enjoying company in a relaxed and peaceful environment. “My visit to Steps Bridge felt like renewing a vow – my vow to love, be mindful of and respect Nature. Nature is there and gives to all of us. All we need to do is see, hear, feel and breathe its diversity and healing magic.”
We caught up with Andrew from the Bridge Collective who sent us back a report from the weekend.
“17 people participated in the event overall, of whom 10 stayed overnight throughout the weekend. Most participants live alone in a city environment and the weekend gave the opportunity of sharing time with others, and of experiencing the peace and freshness of the woods and riverside. Walks through boggy woods and climbing Heltor Rock offered confidence building challenges and there was the chance for everyone to contribute to the household tasks that made the event work. We cooked on the open fire outside and made drawing charcoal from twigs in a tin can in the fire and drew with it. We made paper lanterns by the firepit, sang and played games together and people played instruments they had brought.”
As a result they had some amazing feedback from those who took part.
“I needed to challenge my anxiety being with other people and the weekend has been an ideal opportunity to do that.”
“Such a confidence builder.”
It was obviously a valuable break, as well as a learning experience for people who often struggle with difficult experiences and feelings, may find social contact challenging, and are living on limited budgets. Participants were asked for a contribution but due to county council funding cuts it was a struggle to keep this in reach of most, so the Alpkit Foundation was delighted to provide help towards the cost of hiring the hostel.
“It’s my dream place and I enjoyed every moment of the time I spent with you all in it, including meandering along the tangled pathways, wading through the mud, and even doing the washing up! I feel I could live here. So a huge thank you to each and every one of you x”