antonia December 1, 2023

How social prescribing helped boost Louise’s mental health

Louise had had a difficult few years, she was struggling to know what to do next after life had changed so much from what she knew or had expected and experienced, and found herself feeling very low. She wasn’t sure what to do with herself, but came across on social media, social prescribing activities advertised through the Canal and River Trust, so she registered and was referred through her GP.

Her GP referred her to Sophie, her local social prescribing link worker. Social prescribing connects people to activities, groups, and services in their community to meet the practical, social and emotional needs that can benefit their health and wellbeing.

Louise spoke to Sophie on the phone about what she was struggling with, and Sophie shared details on local activities that were available which she thought would help, one of those being wild swimming. Already a strong swimmer, wild swimming was something Louise had always wanted to try, so this seemed like the perfect choice. She wanted something to go to that was different and a new experience. 

Sophie said: “Louise was referred to social prescribing as she had just come out of a long term relationship, had returned to Nottingham and wanted to look forward and not back. She had always been sporty and wanted to take on new challenges, including paddle boarding and wild swimming. I was able to refer her to the Canal and River Trust for paddleboarding and also suggested she link up with other social prescribers and patients via our Water and Wellness WhatsApp Group. I also worked with Louise on her wellbeing and confidence until she established herself in the new group”.

Sophie continued to speak to Louise to see how she was doing on a regular basis, to discuss what other activities were available which Louise did take part in, and also how she was coping generally. Sophie was a great support at this time for Louise.

“It was like talking to a friend who really understood you and just wanted to help if they could. I cannot thank Sophie and the team behind social prescribing enough, for the opportunity to take part in things, have new experiences and meet new people, all of which has given me a new lease of life, I urge anyone struggling with anything mentally to look into what’s available in your area.” 

Louise now swims a couple of times a week at Colwick lake, In the summer she swims four times a week. Since starting in July, she has seen a real boost in her mental and physical health, so much so she signed up as a member with the organisation running things at the lake, Whole Health.

She explained what she liked about wild swimming:

“Wild swimming is something that I now really enjoy, an indoor pool just doesn’t appeal anymore! I love being outside and in nature anyway, I find it really re-sets me and gives me a boost. There are loads of physical health benefits too, cold water helps with injuries and other health conditions which I have, it has many anti-inflamatory benefits, when I’m in the lake I’m not in pain. 

“Every time I go in the lake, I’ve experienced it in a different way, noticed different birds, trees, how the light effects the water and also different weather conditions like rain and wind, as well as taking part in full moon night swims, you feel very present in the moment. I love being there and It’s really improved my mental health. I have also made some great friends through the whole experience too.

“We have a WhatsApp community water and wellness group which is a fantastic support chat to everyone involved. We share with each other if we are having a good day, a bad day, any top tips for wild swimming, links to supportive content and we are in the process of organising other things together like walks, camping, and meals out.”

For anyone unsure if this is for them Louise said: “I would say do it, you don’t have to swim or be a strong swimmer, you can just get in the water and float, don’t put pressure on yourself to physically swim , I just floated about on my first couple of sessions. Even if you think you wouldn’t like it, you should try it. Give it a go.”

Morgan, Social Prescribing Team Leader who swims with Louise said:

“Louise is an absolute beacon of hope to the group, myself included. I would’ve never come this far in my own open water journey without Louise and other members of the group, they are absolute superstars! So courageous, so kind and so cheerful! We are very lucky to have them.”