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Supporting Mental Health in the Community

Today is World Mental Health Day (10th October) and so it feels like a great time to reflect of the work that we have been providing this year for various vulnerable adult communities.

One of the most rewarding images of the socially beneficial work that we deliver at the Athena Herd Foundation is seeing the faces of our clients when they first arrive.

As we always emphasize the physical and emotional wellbeing of the herd forms is at the heart of the Athena Herd Foundation. Before we started providing training and social benefit work, we set out to create a place that was right for our horses, and other animals. A place where in addition to their physical needs, their natural social and emotional needs can also be satisfied.

This provides a highly effective foundation for supporting human needs.

A safe space

In creating this space dedicated to wellbeing, the benefits infuse all that visit. Creating the appropriate environment is so important if we are to offer a safe space for visitors and clients to engage with their own learning or healing.

We have been holding many of these spaces this summer, working with local vulnerable communities, specifically different groups across the Crossways Community and the residents of the Mount-baton Pavilion at the RBLi village in Kent. Our work this year has so far reached out to over 30 people.

We frame our work around positive psychology. Helping our visitors build individual life-skills and resources, building confidence, community and resilience. These approaches have been inspiring to view when seen through the empathic lens of each individual’s personal journey. Journeys which gently allow them to explore their emotions. Where they can explore the benefit of creating a different behaviour, or in which they can develop simple coping approaches.

The power of the take-away

This year we have been asking people for one-word reflections to take away between sessions. We have had some beautiful and powerful expressions, to share a “few”: “joy”; “peace”; “calm”; “feeling proud”; “friendly”; “happiness” and “enjoyment”. These simple expressions serve as powerful anchors for people to carry with them after the sessions and back to everyday life.

We believe that it is important to create learning that can be applied every day. It is about more than the time that they are on site. We want to build subtle strategies that can facilitate lasting personal life change. In support of this the content of our programmes has been varied. Whether mindfully interacting with the horses on the track or working with them in the arena. As well as yoga, somatic or breath-work or mindfulness sessions away from the horses. All of these contribute to the therapeutic experience of bringing people back to the moment.

From our part this serves as a powerful sign-post that things can be different – even if just for a few moments. Difference is difference. Those who have come with the groups consistently report the incredible achievements and change that those attending experience, both onsite and away from site. This is why this work is of such value.

Feedback from the sessions

In terms of skills learned individual’s have reflected upon things such as: remaining calm, managing to remain relaxed, staying focused and being able to calm myself with breathing and grounding. One attendee reminded us all on several occasions just how much the she experienced horses being “good for mental health.”

We also had some great expressions of how this work supports the build of resilience “it was a good exercise in perseverance, watching how people took their time but achieved great things, and regaining connections.” Another reported, “I found it helpful to stay calm and focused and use breathing exercises to achieve this.” Resilience builds such important resources for people when it comes to managing ourselves through the ups and downs of our lives. Creating these resources for people is so important.

Our thanks to all

All of this has been made possible by the wonderful National Lottery’s Community fund. Without their support we would simply not be able to deliver beneficial interactions on this scale.

We would also like to extend a big thank you to all those that have given time to support these programmes with Jennifer and Graeme, so a big shout out to Michelle, Ann, Therese, Tom, Laura, Sarah, Lou, Michaela and Jess. 

We look forward to continuing to support and nurture positive and resilient mental health and wellbeing for all those who come to work with us.