Surf therapy helping young people with mental health

Young people have been taking part in a surf therapy pilot scheme on the North Coast. Credit: UTV

Organisers of a mental health initiative with a difference are hoping a pilot scheme offering surf therapy for young people can soon be rolled out full-time.

The six-week initiative on Northern Ireland’s North Coast simply dipped a toe in the waters of something that has become a fixture in other parts of the UK.

The Cornwall-based Wave Project charity already runs regular courses at 11 sites, but recently opened up a six-week pilot scheme at Portrush and Benone.

Surf therapy gets young people active and out in the sea air. Credit: UTV

Surf therapy aims to help those aged eight to 18 who, for a variety of reasons, could be at risk of social isolation and would benefit from the confidence-boosting effects.

It is delivered in partnership with local surf schools and each participant is paired up with a mentor to receive one-to-one support.

“Surf therapy is actually a recognised form of therapy,” Beth Dinsmore, from the Wave Project, said.

“We’ve all known being by the seaside for a day is really good for you, but now we have the research and the reports and statistics to prove it is good for your overall mental health and well-being.

“Statistically, it’s proven to de-stress and calm people. We’ve known that for children with autism for quite some time, but now research has proven it’s good for everyone.”

Surfing is already popular on the North Coast. Credit: UTV

The charity also feels that, with children in Northern Ireland 25% more likely to be at risk of isolation than those in England, Scotland and Wales, therapy of this kind would be an important addition to the other support out there.

“A lot of the therapy that’s already available is therapy in a clinical setting, which all children won’t identify with,” Ms Dinsmore said.

“So we’d really love to see this available to all children in Northern Ireland from next year hopefully.”