Mental health is critical issue that many are facing across the country, with symptoms being exacerbated by the lockdown and distancing measures. On average, men with mental health conditions die 20 years earlier than the general population, and women 13 years earlier. Half of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24, which is why it is vital that these challenges are addressed urgently and as early as possible.
Bboy Better Mental Health, based in the town of Porth in Rhondda Cynon Taf, is a project by Avant Cymru and funded by the Trust through money raised by The Health Lottery Wales. The project delivers weekly break-dancing sessions for boys and men affected by mental health issues, loneliness or disadvantage.
All sessions are led by dancers who have experience of mental health issues themselves, including Jamie, the founder of the organisation, whose own experiences inspired the project. Participants come along to the sessions to meet with others who enjoy the same music, challenge themselves physically with the dance and set goals to work towards. A trained mental health first aider is also present if participants would like to reach out, and project members can provide peer support to each other, sharing their experiences or meeting like-minded people to create important social connections. The group regularly put on performances at local events to increase awareness of the project and their aims.Naturally, they have been unable to meet in person recently due to Covid-19 and so have been hosting an online session every Wednesday. Keen to ensure that no-one was left out, the project has worked with local schools to ensure that their members, many of whom do not have regular access to the internet, are able to join in with a pre-recorded routine and lesson every week.
Rachel Pedley, from Avant Cymru said, “In Rhondda Cynon Taf we have the highest rates in the UK of male suicide. We all know someone we have lost.”
She continued, “Our own company director and teacher Jamie has had mental health challenges since the age of 11. In finding breakdance he found a safe space and a place to channel his emotions. We need to make sure that we find a way to connect during these times when our mental health will be at risk of getting low and leaving people vulnerable.”
The project caters for people of all genders and a range of ages between seven and 45. Continuing their sessions during lockdown, and providing a route for physical exercise, creativity and social connections has been vital for their participants.
One of the project members, Tion, 14, said, “Training and doing class during lockdown is so important because it is our passion and a way for me to make new friends."
Avant Cymru were awarded £17,000 for ‘BBoy Better Mental Health’ project, which is funded through the Trust’s Active Communities programme with money raised through Health Lottery Wales.
 Health inequalities Manifesto, 2018. The Mental Health Foundation. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/health-inequalities-manifesto-2018
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