Triathlon England want to take triathlon to places it’s never gone before, with regional teams across to the country working closely with local groups to bring swim, bike and run to new communities.
Norman Nelson is a wellbeing and recovery worker at the Sandwell African Caribbean Mental Health Foundation, based in Birmingham, one of the groups involved in the scheme.
His remit is to help people from the local area suffering or dealing with mental health issues by bringing them in to regular group activities or spending time with them on a one-to-one basis.
Nelson said: “I help people dealing with and recovering from mental health issues. I mostly work with the men’s group here, but some women as well.
“The individuals come from all backgrounds, some are self-referrals, some are referred by a family member or friends, or GPs and hospitals.
“After someone is referred to myself, I meet up with the individual and we have a talk about a care plan, and what they would like to achieve, for example, over the next three months.
“Once we find out what they want to do or achieve, we look at how we can support them. Every Thursday I run a men’s group that involves walking, or going to various spaces, getting outside with company.
“Sometimes I do something as simple as go to the shop with them, it may sound basic, but for some that can be very difficult.
“Obviously mental health difficulties are a broad spectrum, so we always work with the individual and try to empower them in a way that best suits their needs.”
The group Nelson works with will collaborate with British Triathlon on a place-based project to bring swim, bike and run to the local community of West Bromwich.
This will hopefully bring some of the individuals from the foundation into the sport, as the governing body aim to diversify the sport and show the positive benefits of triathlon.
“The project with British Triathlon will help a lot, enormously actually. I firmly believe that regular exercise for some of our individuals will make a massive difference,” Nelson added.
“Everyone gets into different forms (of exercise) some like going to the gym, some like going on the bike and going for a long cycle.
“The only problem for us now is the weather is closing in. When it becomes cold in winter, I think you find some people tend to hibernate and not get as much physical activity.
“Any ideas or activities that bring help to avoid this will make a difference to our people. It is all about wellbeing and getting people out of the house.
“Anything that helps keep our members active during this time will make a massive difference.
“If you are exercising and out and about outside, you’re not thinking about negative issues.
“I treat my clients as people, and talk to them as individuals. So by knowing exactly what their situation is, I get more out of them and can push them more.”
Foundations like Sandwell need all the help they can get to ensure those they strive to support have different projects to get involved with.
Schemes like this also aid those tasked with helping those struggling on a day-to-day basis, such as Nelson.
He added: “The age of people we work with really varies. The youngest I work with are between 19 and 20, while the eldest are late-50s.
“Finding a middle ground activity or subject that everyone can relate to is sometimes difficult, but I hope that triathlon can do that.
“I always say to them ‘I haven’t got all the answers myself’, so to have the support of this project I think will make a big difference to me, as well as those we are trying to help.”