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Skyler dressed in a wet suit with wet hair, standing on a beach

The Wave Project (Cornwall)

The Wave Project, based in Cornwall and funded by BBC Children in Need’s “A Million and Me” campaign, offers a type of therapy you may not immediately think of.  It’s “surf therapy” and it’s being prescribed by GPs for children and young people to improve their mental health.

Like many children his age, ten year old Skyler has struggled being stuck inside during lockdown. Add to that a recent bereavement and a family illness and Skyler needed somewhere to go and feel free from his worries.

Not only is surfing a great physical exercise but it helps develop resilience, cope with setbacks and builds confidence. And as Skyler will tell you – it makes him feel happy again.

Meet Skyler in this short film produced by BBC Spotlight as part of the BBC Happy Heads campaign

 A GP provides their perspective on The Wave Project

Dr Kuwita Schur sitting on a bench with a wave graphi t-shirt

Dr Kawita Schur

I am a GP based in Newquay, Cornwall with an interest in child and adolescent health and sustainable healthcare.

As a GP, I witness more and more young people struggling with their mental health, with problems such as anxiety and depression, eating disorders, sleep disturbance, self- harm and somatisation, where a mental health disorder presents with physical symptoms.

This was apparent before the pandemic but the impact of Covid has accelerated this trend. The abrupt closure of schools, universities and work places and the cancellation of exams, social gatherings and sporting events led to the loss of routine, control and access to coping mechanisms which has been unsettling for many. Increased levels of stress and alcohol consumption in the home and an upsurge in domestic violence have directly impacted our young people further.

When a child or young person comes to see me I try to work through what might be going on in their life and how best to help them. In a minority of cases they may need the support of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services but in the main we can work with the child, family, school and local services to improve the support structure around the child.

One of the main things that will help the mental health of the child or young person in the short and long term is to build their self-esteem, confidence and resilience. That is what surf therapy with the Wave Project aims to do. Their excellent and well-supported 6-week courses followed by ongoing involvement in their surf club offers a unique formula which supports children going through a difficult time. Some of the children who attend the courses become mentors when they reach 14, offering peer support to the younger children and themselves benefiting from this added responsibility. Now that the Wave Project is available on social prescription with minimal waiting times I am referring more children and witnessing first-hand the positive outcomes. With their simple yet highly effective formula it is no wonder that their service has expanded and I hope that this continues so that more young people are able to benefit.

Social prescribing aims to link individuals to their communities by offering a broad selection of activities and has become an essential component of personalised care alongside medical treatments. I would like to see more services or charities develop, whether the focus is on sport, the arts or music, using green or blue space, with a similar winning formula to the Wave Project so that we have a variety of options to meet the needs of our diverse young people. By strengthening the resilience of our younger generation we will witness the benefits as they emerge into young adulthood with an enhanced trajectory in life which will in turn enrich our communities and society as a whole.

 

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