Local gym breaks down barriers for people with mental health conditions

Staff at Rutland Gardens, a Community Mental Health Ward in Hove, have teamed up with Freedom Leisure at the King Alfred Leisure Centre in Hove to promote health and wellbeing and encourage residents to access gym and leisure facilities in the community. 

Run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Rutland Gardens is a specialist Recovery in-patient ward providing care to men with complex mental health needs. Their aim is to actively support people in maintaining their health and to reach their goals in a way that is meaningful to them and their families. 

Freedom Leisure offers a wide variety of sports and leisure facilities for the local community which Rutland Gardens residents previously felt unable to access. 

Harriett Robins Kennish, Occupational Therapist, explains: 'We found that while residents wanted to engage in physical activity they were facing barriers due to fear of going somewhere new, perceived stigma, financial inequalities and low confidence. We know that mental and physical wellbeing are closely linked so it was important we could address this to support residents in their recovery.'

Harriett spoke with Ryan O'Gormon, Freedom Leisure Health and Fitness Manager about how they could overcome some of the barriers to enable residents to access the gym and leisure facilities. Residents were supported by staff to apply for a discount card which gave them 40% off the gym, swimming, table tennis and badminton. This is a huge saving and went some way to helping residents enjoy physical activities. For some residents who struggled to afford the discounted rate, Freedom Leisure generously donated free passes to help remove the financial barriers. 

Ryan explained: 'Through our active communities work we’re committed to creating inclusive leisure facilities for local communities. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with the staff at Rutland Gardens and being able to assist people who may have not been able to attend our facilities without the additional support provided.'

Ryan and Harriett have worked together to bring opportunities to people that would otherwise not be available. 

Harriett said, 'Ryan has been incredibly supportive and instrumental in helping us promote healthy activity within our service. We have been given pay as you go cards for staff to use which allows us to attend the gym with residents to support them until they feel confident enough to go on their own. We use a graded approach which means we will stay with the residents in their gym sessions initially and gradually reduce the amount of time we stay with them over a period of weeks until they feel able to attend sessions on their own. Freedom Leisure's flexibility and understanding of the barriers and inequalities some of our residents face has been crucial in making this work.' 

Residents at Rutland gardens can now enjoy regular exercise and leisure activities at the King Alfred Leisure centre as part of their recovery in the community. 

Photo: Ryan O'Gorman,  Freedom Leisure Health and Fitness Manager - Trina Taylor, Ward Manager - Harriett Robins-Kennish, Occupational Therapist