Cornwall NHS offers surfing as therapy for depression

Media caption,
The NHS pays £250 per person for the treatment, which they say is cheaper than conventional medicine

A pilot project is under way offering surfing as therapy on the NHS for young people in Cornwall.

Over the next six weeks professional surfers will run one-to-one lessons for 20 young people with diagnosed mental health needs.

The aim is to give them therapy through building confidence and help them learn a new skill.

The project, which is costing a total of £5,000, is worth the money, said Cornwall Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Joe McEvoy, who commissioned the service for the PCT, said: "I think it will offer excellent value.

"It's a long-established body of evidence which shows that when you organise therapeutic activities around particular tasks, people benefit not just from social interaction but also build confidence.

"That's been one of the tenets of occupational therapy which has been an established therapeutic discipline in all sections of health care for many decades."

The participants are all aged between 12 and 25 and have been referred into the scheme by local charities and mental health professionals.

Another scheme, offering surfing therapy to armed forces personnel suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, started in Cornwall in 2009.

Mr McEvoy said: "The coast is one of our greatest assets and it makes sense to use it to improve the health and wellbeing of our patients.

"There are many positive health benefits that flow from physical activity and people who are suffering from poor mental health can also gain from improved self-esteem and doing things which are enjoyable."

The surfing lessons are being delivered by Polzeath-based adventure company Era Adventures, which came up with the idea of offering 12 half-day sessions at beaches including Watergate Bay.

A spokesman said: "This is a really exciting opportunity and a great way of using surfing in the community."

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