Rock climbing to help people suffering with mental health issues

  • One woman has set up a community group for women with physical and mental health issues through the use of rock climbing.

    Christine Belk, founder of Vertigirls, formed the group in 2008 after she discovered how the sport helped her manage her own mental health issues whilst also improving her quality of life. Based in Brighton the group began with seven members, however it now caters for more than 50 women through climbing courses and indoor/outdoor trips across the country.

    Ms Belk was recently awarded the Volunteer of the Year award at Brighton and Hove City Council's City Sport and Physical Activity Awards, reports The Argus. The Climber 3

    Christine said: "I started the group because climbing was really helping me manage my own issues. I wanted to share it with other women.

    "Initially a Can Do grant from the Scarman trust enabled Vertigirls to run free women only climbing courses at the Rock Court indoor climbing wall in Brighton. Thanks to further grants over the years from Grassroots, Sussex Giving, Brighton and Hove City Council, Sport England and the British Mountaineering Council, we now have more than 50 members and run clubs with an average of 25 people each time. They learn to climb, they gain confidence in themselves, trust in others, go to inspiringly beautiful places in the UK, make new friends, get support and encouragement from their peers, a sense of belonging, courage to face new challenges, less isolation and the beauty of being in the moment."

    Since 2008 she has only taken a six-month break from the project due to her own mental health issues. She believes that the topic of mental health is still a "huge" taboo topic, however believes Brighton and Hove is more aware and open minded to it due to its array of support services.

    Christine added: "We need to continue to invest in both services to support those with problems and ways of stamping out stigma and prejudice. One in four will have a mental health problem at some point in their life and they need to have help from the NHS available to support them and compassion from their friends, families and colleagues."

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