A new and innovative cycling project is helping men in Morpeth who have serious mental illness to experience the great outdoors on two wheels.

Patients at Newton Ward at St George’s Park, Morpeth, a high-dependency unit for men with serious mental illness, are benefiting from a project designed to help them undertake a range of cycling challenges.

Bike4Health, a company on a mission to make bikes part of everyday life has teamed up with Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW).

The project, which came about when one service user said he missed the camaraderie of going to work, has seen patients take part in a range of activities such as clearing cycle paths, going on bike rides and fixing bikes in the workshop.

Working with Bike4Health on creating a cycle path for children made patients want to get on bikes themselves, enabling them to gain confidence and experience the freedom that riding a bike can offer.

*Images – were taken before social distancing measures were in place. More images are available upon request.

Part of CNTW, a provider of mental health and learning disability services, the Newton Ward is a high dependency unit for men with serious mental illness who require intensive rehabilitation.

The impact the project has had so far on service users has been extremely positive, with one patient’s symptoms of psychosis being significantly reduced after a bike ride.

One patient, said: “Dave has helped me believe that can I do more. It’s helping me with other parts of my life.”

A second client, said: “Its mint to get out on the bike and feel free.”

Another patient, said: “I can’t wait to get discharged and use biking a way to get about and stay connected to people that can help me.”

Pauline Brennan, an occupational therapist on the ward, said: “Our patients can often be difficult to engage; a lot of them have been in services for a long time and have lost hope. We work with them on small, everyday things like getting out of bed, having a shower and taking their medication. My belief is that if you can find something that patients are passionate about, something that makes them get out of bed, the other basics will come.

“Working with Bike4Health has empowered patients, making them feel valued and like they are contributing to something.”

Bike4Health starts by building bike confidence in a safe space and environment, offering support and guidance to those who need it. It aims to promote physical and mental wellbeing and bring people together through a range of cycling activities.

The organisation works to get people bike ready and in a position where they could independently go for a bike ride and undertake new cycling challenges.

Dave Buchan, Founder of Bike4Health, said: “As a teenager with low confidence and little direction, cycling helped me find my feet. Cycling is a phenomenal tool for wellbeing and recovery and I’m so pleased I’ve been able to turn my passion into something that can help people from all walks of life who may feel they have lost their way.”

Thanks to the initial success of the collaboration, further funding has now been secured which will allow CNTW’s work with Bike4Health to continue. The funding will mean other inpatients in the Trust will be able to access the project. The project has been paid for by the Trust’s Charitable Funds Committee.

Pauline, added: “It’s been really great working with Bike4Health and we are delighted to be able to continue our collaboration. Service users and staff going on bike rides together has broken down barriers and we’ve all been able to enjoy our time together. There are plans for us to do a bike ride to Newbiggin and one service user is hoping to do the Coast to Coast ride.”

The vital sessions are continuing to take place during Covid-19 and are following social distancing guidelines.

To find out more about Bike4Health and the different projects they offer visit bike4health.org, call 0191 250 9357 or email info@bike4health.org