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Show and tell: Finding time to talk whilst being active

Time to Talk Day (6 February) encourages everyone to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives. This week’s show and tell article focuses on Get Out Get Active’s impact on people’s mental health.

A man on a bike at the Tea Talk Tri GrampiansOne in four of us will experience a mental health problem every year. Being active has numerous benefits for both our physical and mental health. Get Out Get Active (GOGA) is reaching disabled and non-disabled people across the UK in new and different ways. The beauty of the programme is the friendliness and fun involved in the activities. Everyone should feel comfortable talking about their mental health as much as their physical wellbeing.

If you are involved in GOGA, you’ll know the way it makes you feel. You will be able to shout about it. Results show it is having a positive impact on people’s lives and we are delighted to be rolling it out across the UK.

GOGA is making waves in supporting people to feel happier and healthier. Here, we share some of the programme’s useful learning, funded by Spirit of 2012. We do not want to keep the learning to ourselves – if we share it, we share the happiness too. That is why we have started Show and Tell. 

Here, our partners in Scotland explain how they combined activity with a time to talk.

The location:

The Grampians in Scotland have excelled in getting more people active through their unique activity - Tea, Talk and Try.

The story:

The tea, talk, tri sessions run across Scotland’s Grampian region. The main activity focus was walking, cycling and swimming - the key components of a triathlon. The success of the first inclusive triathlon in North East Scotland in 2017 in Banff led them to develop another inclusive triathlon event. It drew further on Activity Alliance’s valuable 10 principles, adapted for GOGA.

The event created a relaxed, social environment. Participants could observe and participate in an inclusive triathlon if they wish to. Experienced volunteers were on hand to talk about, encourage and support participation. Afterwards, the social gathering meant chats over a cup of tea at the Aberdeen Sports Village.

Using feedback and consultation from the initial Tea Talk, Tri sessions, they expanded the opportunity to other sports and activities. Feedback highlighted the desire to try fun tasters in sports and other active recreation opportunities. Tea, Talk, Tri evolved into Tea, Talk and Try!

The numbers

Since the sessions began in March 2018, they have significantly influenced many participants to become more active. Also, they encouraged other supporters like families, friends and carers. They reached out to other partners from the social care and sports sector. Over 100 participants have taken part in the sessions. Many of whom have stated having either an impairment or long-term health condition.

The recipe for success

The relaxed structure and enabling people to drop in and out conveniently during the activity. The main emphasis was on fun! People enjoyed being able to watch before they take part. Everyone could take time to get used to the environment. Being able to ‘drop’ into a group took away the pressure to commit to an activity and group.

The fun skills, drills and games enabled people to engage at a level at which they were comfortable. Non-competitive activities were very popular with many. This format also promoted the GOGA ethos, creating an opportunity for fully inclusive participation. Socialising, having a cuppa and time to talk became part of the offer.

The participants

Families, friends and carers all try out activities in a safe supportive environment. The events were co-produced with other local organisations. Volunteers and Grampian Disability Sport (GDS) were on hand to support. The inclusive cycling soon became the headline activity and drew in participants from all over.

Finlay Wilson, 13, from Insch, Aberdeenshire took part in pop up cycling sessions. He was already cycling in Inverurie. But had a substantial breakthrough after attending the Tea, Talk, and Try sessions in Westburn Park, Aberdeen.

Finlay was diagnosed with autism when he was three. He was first given the opportunity to try the bikes at the Garioch Sports Centre as part of his school timetable at the start of 2018, which he really enjoyed. In the April holidays, the Gairoch sports Centre held some activities for children with additional needs and cycling was one of them. 

I cannot stress how much this has meant to Finlay and the rest of us as a family and we will continue to attend as many sessions as we can. Finlay has a lot of energy to use up and other sports we have tried have not been a success. After a session on one of the bikes Finlay is calmer and always in a cheery mood. I would encourage anyone to go along to one of the sessions. There is a bike to suit everyone no matter what the disability might be and the encouragement you receive from Shaun and the gang is fantastic

Finley’s dad commented. 

“Once on the bike I was amazed by how much Finley enjoyed it and how skilful he was on the bikes. It was one of the best moments seeing Finlay so happy and achieving. I could not wait to report to his dad and brothers. Finley now tries to get along to as many pop up sessions as he can and he has continued to enjoy it and gain confidence. So much so he managed to use a ‘normal’ bike for the first time at the last session.”

Shaun, the GOGA coordinator in the Grampians. 

The future

The Tea, Talk and Try sessions across the Grampians continue to engage new participants and sports. Grampian Disability Sport (GDS) and the volunteers who have been involved throughout sustain the sessions.

Tea Talk and Try has had a significant impact for both individuals and the community in general. It enabled effective multi-disciplinary partnership working creating good links between services and organisations in co-producing the events. The partners are energised by the Tea, Talk Try concept has and it helped to maximise resources, building good social capital.

For those taking part, it has been a chance to be part of an active community and try out activities, often for the first time, in a well-supported environment. They are looking at a diverse range of activities to challenge preconceptions of ability.

Friends, family members and carers surprised each other. The joy at being active enabled the organisers to break down barriers.

Key learning and resources

Read more stories on GOGA’s website. 

This year, the popular game 'Would you rather?' is helping break the ice and get the conversations flowing. Visit the Time to Talk website.