Bristol leads the way as tennis serves up mental health relief

October 27 2017

A series of initiatives across Bristol are successfully using tennis as a way to help mental health sufferers improve their quality of life through activity and social interaction.

A series of initiatives across Bristol are successfully using tennis as a way to help mental health sufferers improve their quality of life through activity and social interaction.

Thanks to a partnership between the LTA, local clubs, Avon and Wiltshire NHS Mental Health Trust, the Tennis Foundation and the Bristol Active Life Project, people in Redland, Cotham and Bishopston struggling with mental health problems have access to a network of groups that aim to address associated issues around social isolation and low activity levels.

Projects in the city include Redland Green Club’s weekly tennis programme for those suffering with acute mental health conditions, a weekly tennis and wellbeing session for mothers and under 5s at Kings Lawn Tennis Club and welcoming Ability session at Cotham Park Tennis Club that caters to each participant’s needs.

The sessions are tailored to the specific needs of the participants and their recovery programmes each week, with social interaction, activity and conversation some key elements of the weekly groups.

Many existing programmes struggle to continue running through the winter months due to a lack of indoor facilities and floodlit courts. Investment into improving facilities is key to sustaining the programmes and increasing provision, especially during winter when social isolation and the negative effects of mental health problems can be most difficult.

Redland Green Club is hoping to benefit from the LTA’s unprecedented £125 million investment into grassroots tennis, Transforming British Tennis Together, with plans to improve current facilities and enable potential expansion of programmes such as this.

 The LTA has previously supported mental health initiatives through tennis with the appointment of Mental Health Ambassadors Naomi Cavaday and Oli Jones, who last year spoke out about their own struggles with depression and bipolar disorder respectively. To mark this year’s World Mental Health Day on 10 October, the LTA has released a video in which Oli and Naomi talk about what they get out of tennis and how the sport – and opening up about their struggles – has benefitted their own mental wellbeing.

Julie Jones, Regional Tennis Participation Manager for the South West at the Lawn Tennis Association, said: “We’re looking forward to working with Redland Green Club and we’re encouraging other community organisations and local authorities to get in touch and tell us what they need to help get more people playing more often.”

Helen Abbott, Disability Tennis Coordinator for Bristol said: “The programmes we run here and at other venues like Cotham, Kings and Knowle are invaluable for the participants and enable them to have a positive physical activity to look forward to each week, to help improve overall fitness and to help reduce a feeling of social isolation.

“We would love to expand these programmes to offer more sessions at more venues across the city and year-round, but the facilities have to be there first.”

The LTA is calling on tennis clubs, parks, local government, volunteers, coaches and businesses across the region to come together and register their interest in bidding for the funds to transform their local tennis courts. For more information visit www.lta.org.uk/TBTT