People with mental health problems will be encouraged to become more physically active following a near £1 million investment from the Scottish Government.
The programme, a collaboration between the Scottish Government and mental health charity SAMH, will build on the well-established links between physical activity and improved mental wellbeing.
Funded out of the additional £150 million made available by the Scottish Government for improving mental health, the scheme will run initially in three health board areas – Lothian, Fife and Ayrshire and Arran.
Participants will initially be offered interventions to build up their resilience and self-esteem, followed by a tailored 12 week programme of physical activity, designed around the person’s interests, abilities and level of fitness.
SAMH will use the £992,000 fund over the next three years, to build and run the programme. People with mental or physical health conditions, or both, who might benefit from the programme will be referred by existing pathways – for example, through their GPs. They will work with local leisure trusts to provide the physical activity programmes.
People taking part will be helped by a peer support network, made up of trained people who have had similar mental health problems. At the end of the course the individual will be given help and support to continue benefitting, both physically and mentally.
Jamie Hepburn, minister for sport, health improvement and mental health, said: “When we announced the additional £150 million for mental health, we wanted to use some of it to fund innovative projects that help to prevent people from developing more serious health issues. This is exactly the kind of project that we had in mind.
“This scheme does not just offer people the option of physical activity, it encourages and supports them to achieve goals that will make a real difference to their mental health. They will be fully supported throughout.
“Even moderate physical activity can have remarkable benefits for mental wellbeing. This programme has the potential to be extremely beneficial to patients.”
Billy Watson, chief executive at SAMH, said: “SAMH is delighted to receive this investment from the Scottish Government for our Physical Activity Engagement and Sustainment programme.
“It is well known that regular exercise can have a hugely positive impact on both our mental and physical well-being. Yet nearly 80 per cent of people who are referred to physical activity programmes as part of their treatment either fail to complete the programme or do not incorporate physical activity within their lifestyle after the programme has ended.
“Our goal is to change behaviours, which is why this project embeds cognitive behaviour approaches within the physical activity programme, delivered by SAMH staff.”
He added: “This innovative intervention will ensure people build their knowledge and skills to engage with physical activity on a long term basis, helping people towards making active lifestyle choices for the future.”