How Bristol Active Life Project helped pull my life back together

November 7, 2015 at 10:48 pm

By Peter Hale, member of BIMHN and mental health blogger


After Christmas 2008 I was critically injured and in a coma due to an incident which also had considerable impact on my life, leading me to also be at the centre of press attention. At the same time I was also made redundant. A knock-on effect of these events was for me to be evicted my accommodation. At that time I was also near the end of a Computing and Engineering PhD.

I was discriminated against by many public authorities who showed little understanding or care for mental health, nor knowledge of the related disability and human rights laws. I have reactive anxiety and depression due to all of the above. I also have a mild trait of Asperger syndrome.

All of the above events and my personality and ability/disability traits led to a perfect storm of conflict where I sued (usually successfully) every agency that harmed me. I also had great support from Rethink to cope through all this. This help, combined with legal successes created some space and time in my life to get involved in more constructive activities.

Bristol Active Life Project (BALP)

These constructive activities involved a mixture of completing my PhD, volunteering, mental health campaigning, temporary work and research, and BALP activities. I’ve also completed many vocational and academic web, programming, computing, business and admin courses.

The BALP activities have been the most enjoyable. This has greatly helped my mental health and physical health, which both needed constructive activities to improve. I have asthma and diabetes, but this doesn’t stop me exercising, this makes exercise more important, but only in combination with the appropriate medical treatment and advice.

Before this I had been putting on weight because of lack of exercise due to PhD work, and court cases etc that needed mental not physical effort.

I first took up walking with BALP, and was a regular for this. We used to get together at MIND in Old Market, to meet before and have tea and coffee after. Whilst there, I saw a poster for BALP football training at St Pauls. I have played football on and off, all through my adult life. So I took part in BALP football training and playing on Tuesdays at St Pauls. What I hadn’t known was that there was professional coaching, other training and football days, and a football team.

As I got used to the Tuesday football and got fitter, I realised that I was ready to train on Fridays at South Bristol, where there is a large weather proof Astroturf pitch. This is also the training place for the BALP football team. Before long I was also ready to play for this team, and now I’m a regular in this team. Our BALP team also won a tournament last summer.

I’ve only missed one BALP football games day and this was because the Bristol Half Marathon clashed with the football that Sunday. BALP had supported me by paying the fees and giving advice so I could run. I was able to run this Half Marathon because I had been training at a gym and outdoors with the help of an exercise on prescription scheme.

I’ve also played in a BALP badminton tournament and still go on the walks also. These walks are now with Rethink and Walking for Health.

The main organisations that have been supportive of me are BALP, Rethink, and the NHS. My physical and mental health is not perfect because the reactive depression is as a result of the balance between the good effects from these organisations such as BALP easing the depression, and other organisations that have harmed my health. This balance leaves me able to control though not eradicate my depression. But I hope with BALP, Rethink, and NHS help I can put the reactive depression behind me.

I wouldn’t have got involved in football outside BALP. BALP provides a supportive environment, and their mental health knowledge prevents me becoming stressed as I would by playing in regular league team.

I’m a BALP member, Rethink member, and part of a highly effective campaign against mental health stigma and discrimination that combines activities of many charities and groups. Also I’ve passed my PhD, published my research, I’m well published and connected over the web, and I’m involved in further research on computing, and on mental health and activities.

The reason BALP has been so effective is because it has worked out WITH me what I can and can’t do and what I want, not decided this FOR me.

So with BALPs’ help, things are looking up!

This is from a talk that Peter gave back in January 2013.


November 7, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Blog | No comment

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