Black Dog Outdoors

Black Dog Outdoors run local events for people who struggle with mental health and wellbeing. These events are free for attendees. All our activities are outdoors, thereby reconnecting people with nature, and include walking, climbing, cycling, bouldering, and paddle sports. Our events are run by our own dedicated team of volunteers, all of whom are qualified professionals and Mental Health First Aiders.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

Providing a service that can help with suicide prevention means a lot to Blackdog Outdoors. Some of our team have lived experience of suicide. We are also aware that middle aged men are particularly at risk of suicide. With increasing research suggesting that by establishing positive connections and increasing social activity more opportunities can be made available to allow those at risk to communicate openly in a safe environment. This has a significant impact on men and helps reduce the stigma surrounding men’s mental health discussions.

Our projects, such as the one in Harrogate and Craven, aim to address these difficulties for all members of society. We are keen to support all those affected across the UK by connecting with local networks to allow for referrals for those in need. Participating in outdoor activities can improve mental health helping with:

• Better sleep

• Happier mood – physical exercise helps release feel-good hormones.

• Physical exercise releases cortisol which helps manage stress.

• Being physically active can also be a form of mindfulness giving your brain something to focus on and can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals.

• Reduces the risk of depression.

• Making new friends, group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people.

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What are your current priorities?

Delivering programmes for 2021, based in Harrogate, Skipton and surrounding areas, the project is designed to provide outdoor activities to five cohorts of five people.

That programme consists of:

2 x Paddlesports sessions

2 x Hill walking sessions

1 x Introduction to Climbing session

1 x Introduction to Hill Skills session  (including talks on equipment, techniques, map reading and using compass)

We will be looking to use local providers to supplement our team and in turn giving something back to the local community.

We use feedback from some of the participants of our existing programmes to develop our ongoing work. This information has been gathered from face to face conversations, post event surveys and testimonials.

Most of our current supplementary volunteer team are previous participants, who after attending several events and developing the requisite skills expressed an interest in volunteering for us.

Several of the current trustees also have lived experience of the benefits of outdoor ‘green’ exercise.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

As everyone, the Covid lockdown has placed a stress on available resources.

The role of the suicide prevention officer is brand new to the MPS. This has meant that suicide prevention policies etc have had to be written from scratch.

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