Dulcie Alexander, Thriving Communities Fund Programme Manager spent an afternoon with one of the Thriving Communities funded project partners, at a Dance for Mood Boosting. It prompted her to reflect both on what is working for the funded projects, and what works for her own mental health and wellbeing.

Last weekend, before watching my cousin make the massive achievement of running the Brighton Marathon for Mind, I attended a Dance for Mood Boosting session on the Hangleton & Knoll Estate in Hove, part of the Prescribe to Thrive offer from Robin Hood Health Foundation.

Supported by the Thriving Communities Fund, I saw the incredible colour and fun that dancing together can bring to people’s lives and foster conversations that may not have been had that day.

What both these things really brought home to me was the importance of looking after your physical and mental wellbeing, especially in a world emerging from a pandemic.

The Thriving Communities Fund social prescribing programmes have been a huge step forward in ensuring those most vulnerable to the impacts of Covid-19 can take part in a social prescribing offer locally that is right for them. Social prescribing is all about finding out what matters to a person, and providing them with activities and opportunities that work for them. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are still many barriers to participation. I wonder how many people didn’t attend Saturday for the fear of entering the room, or the thought of having to meet new people. I wonder if the digital space offers more to those who have been shielding or reluctant to go out into live spaces yet with others. I wonder how many people are attending following a prescription from the GP or have the referred themselves to take part.

Digital has its own barriers, which is why I’ve been particularly inspired by Robinhood Health Foundation taking tech engineer support into older people’s homes throughout the pandemic to ensure they could still access a social prescribing offer and experience weekly connection to their group. Here is their video GP practices are sharing with patients to access the social prescribing offer.

Those who did make it on Saturday clearly had a joyful and engaging experience, which was wonderful to see. I don’t know from that one class what the impact on their physical and mental health will be, but I saw that in the moment it lifted them up.

To make sure we do know the impact social prescribing is having, we’ll be doing a full evaluation with all 37 of our Thriving Communities Fund projects by March 2022, but in the mean time we’re also learning as we go with co-designed models and projects through collaborative partnerships which respond to the needs of communities. There’s also plenty of possibility to reflect and learn from the scope of this fund, and what it has enabled for collaborative partnership working, going forward as the NHS enables the 42 Integrated Care Systems to embed and deliver regionally to enable Personalised Care to be part of everyone’s health journey throughout their lives.

Will I be doing the marathon like my cousin? As with social prescribing, it’s about finding what is right for me. It may seem like small steps but creativity, mindful journaling, nature walks and yoga work for me to ensure my lived experience of negative mental health is in check. How about you? What’s your outlet to bring you joy? What’s your #OneGoodThing?

Find out more about the Thriving Communities programme and fund, and let us know your #OneGoodThing on Twitter and Instagram.