The Paddler Magazine issue 73 Late Summer 2023 | Page 58


Mental health awareness at


Words : John Lewis , Chair , Deva Canoe Club Photos : Ian Moran & Mathew Sefton Deva Canoe Club is a recreational club based on the River Dee in Chester . In common with many clubs , we at Deva Canoe Club have experienced a growing interest in our activities in the post-pandemic years , particularly from beginners with little or no paddlesports experience .
This is often attributed to a reaction to lockdown , which increased social isolation ; however , there was already an increase in the take-up of adventure activities in the years before Covid . The desire to get outside and try a new activity was driven by a realisation that it was beneficial for mental and physical health .
In the Summer 2023 issue of Paddler Magazine , Del Read eloquently expressed her feelings as a competitive kayaker ( https :// paddlerezine . com / anxiety-and-kayaking /).
As recreational paddlers , we also know that exercise , comradeship , development of skills and challenging ourselves to achieve are good ways to relax and relieve anxiety and stress that we all experience daily . At Deva Canoe Club , we aim to make everyone welcome , and this starts as soon as you walk down the drive for the first time at a club meeting .
The duty ’ Welcome Team ’ at each meeting consists of five people : a welcomer to say hello and explain what we can offer , an administration officer who will help you fill in the necessary paperwork as a guest or to join as a member , a kit manager who will help you select and fit you out with a suitable craft , PFD , paddle etc ., and introduce you to the coach and assistant coach for the session . Joining any new group can be an intimidating experience , and we aim to be as friendly as possible .
Our Safeguarding and Welfare Officer , Judith Lathaen , has completed the ‘ Time to Listen ’ training and has developed our club practice . The Safeguarding element of our policies that we have in place covers the duty of care , and we hope that all clubs pay due respect . However , we see the Welfare element as a broader field that considers members ’ day-to-day feelings and health . As well as being a safe place , we aim to be a listening , sharing and caring club .
Judith and club member Mat recently proposed a fundraising event in support of MIND , the mental health charity . To explain why this was important , Mat wrote a very personal , open article explaining how kayaking with the club had helped him . He has kindly agreed to share this more widely ; the words below are Mat ’ s account .
By the way , our MIND event raised awareness and collected £ 750 for MIND from donations at a tea and cake party held at our meeting on August 17th . Members and their families and friends supported it . Thanks to Judith and our many members who set it up , served drinks and cakes , publicised and baked cakes , and to those who generously supported the event .