STRIDE for Better Mental Health

World Mental Health Day is aimed at promoting awareness, supporting & raising the curtain on this often misunderstood disease. The aim is to challenge mental health stigma & discrimination, something that has come a long way in recent years but still requires your help. So why are we, Dance Manchester, talking about this?

Our long running young men’s community dance project, STRIDE, also acts to challenge stigma & discrimination, but in the shape of young males in dance. As well as these similarities, STRIDE has shared close ties with mental health issues over previous years, even being featured as good practise in ‘Delivering Male’- a publication commissioned by the National Mental Health Development Unit. Dance Manchester, in partnership with Company Chameleon, have been running this annual young men’s dance project for nearly a decade, since 2009, back when we were known as DiGM. The STRIDE Project’s fundamental aims include; introducing young men (aged 10-20) to dance, offering opportunities for these young men to experience dance as a high quality art form & to challenge stereotypes of young men in dance. STRIDE engages young men from diverse socio-economic & cultural backgrounds, & offers opportunities for them to develop key life skills through discipline, responsibility &  social interaction.

Read the STRIDE case study featured in Delivering Male (page 82).

Stride young mens dance project

“Whilst Stride is not a mental health project in itself, its offering of a space for creative self-expression may be a contributing factor to the prevention of mental health issues.”

STRIDE is a popular & sometimes life changing project, offering participants a path in life that may not have presented itself otherwise. The diversity of participants’ backgrounds is an essential element to why STRIDE has influenced so much change & plaudits from parents of participants, as well as organisations involved. But, a more important factor today is that young men involved have noted a significant improvement in not only physical health, but also their mental well-being. Whilst STRIDE is not a mental health project in itself, its offering of a space for creative self-expression may be a contributing factor to the prevention of mental health issues.

The ‘Delivering Male’ document commissioned by the National Mental Health Development Unit was written and published as a partnership between the Men’s Health Forum & MIND, the leading mental health charity.  After research, STRIDE was seen to;

  • Improve mental health through opportunities to develop creative ideas, for self-expression and engagement with others in a positive environment
  • Improve physical fitness and wellbeing through regular dance sessions that challenge strength, stamina, cardiovascular health, agility and flexibility
  • Improve life skills through providing opportunities to value the importance of team work, goal setting, commitment and time management

According to Mariam Kemple, Policy and Campaigns officer at MIND (A charity who provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing mental health problems), “…figures show that young men are particularly vulnerable to mental distress. Groups like STRIDE are therefore extremely important. Research suggests that men find exercise & group support particularly helpful. Not only does STRIDE provide this, it also gives members a sense of achievement, confidence &, of course, a fun thing to do!”

 

We are extremely proud of the influence our project has had on these young men & the praise it has acclaimed from mental health organisations, such as MIND. STRIDE is an indispensable project, tool & outlet. 

By Chris Connolly.