A GROWING campaign to tackle mental health issues through the power of sport has arrived in Wigton, thanks to the town’s Amateur Boxing Club.

This Thursday, Wigton Amateur Boxing Club held its first “Get Mind Fit” session, encouraging anyone feeling isolated by mental health issues to pay a visit and engage in the healing powers of exercise and interaction with a community.

Club secretary Dale Blaylock, who is also part of the coaching team, explained how the new programme could benefit those in Wigton struggling with their mental health.

“Training and exercise, it’s the best way to get your mind fit. That’s what it’s called – Get Mind Fit, he said.

“The advantages of that – your shape’s better, your self esteem’s better. It clears your mind. Especially hitting punch bags, it clears your mind,” Dale continued.

“It’ll make you better prepared to deal with things – it’s emotional resilience. It could make you cope with life a bit better.”

Dale spoke passionately about how widespread mental health problems are in society.

“Mental health is that big of an issue nowadays, one in four suffer from a mental health problem,” Dale said.

“It could literally affect anyone. I think everyone’s struggled with depression at some point.”

For Dale, the twin powers of exercise and social interaction are the most effective combination for tackling depression and anxiety.

“A lot of people do say exercise is the best antidepressant. I’ve spoken to a lot of health professionals regarding it. Everyone says exercise is the best thing you can do to combat it,” he said.

Dale continued: “depression and anxiety are isolating conditions. You don’t want to speak to people. You kind of withdraw into yourself. You don’t want to burden people and bother people.”

Dale explained that the strong community found in the boxing world can go a long way towards overcoming the sense of isolation that mental health issues bring.

“It’s like a support network. You’re getting to know coaches, you’re getting to know there’s someone there if you need to talk to them,” Dale said.

Dale added that a strategy of engaging with mental health issues in a community rather than a clinical setting avoids relying on stretched NHS services.

“The health services are letting quite a lot of people down with long waiting times,” he said.

The Get Mind Fit programme was originally started by Jimmy Brennan, a coach at the Carlisle Villas Amateur Boxing Club, in Currock.

“There’s a few regulars who come every single session, and they’re seeing the benefits of it,” Jimmy said.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in it. We’ve just got to keep it up.”

The Get Mind Fit programme has plenty of supporters. It has been endorsed by the World Health Innovation Summit, a Cumbria-based initiative with an international presence.

The project has also been supported by England Boxing’s Matthew Williams, who is leading on the organisation’s Box In Mind project.

Box In Mind seeks to use the sport to reduce stigmas associated with mental health, and further encourage openness and a culture of support within the world of boxing.

On World Mental Health Day, which took place this month, Matthew wrote:

“Boxing clubs are based in the heart of many marginalised communities and are in a unique position to be able to engage people that may not be connected with mental health services."

For more information on Wigton’s Get Mind Fit programme, contact Dale Blaylock on 07506 014685.