UHI Inverness and skateboarding community team up to launch new wellbeing programme

A NEW wellbeing programme to improve the mental and physical health of skateboarders and the wider community has been established following a successful summer project by UHI Inverness psychology lecturers at the local skatepark.

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Aaron Jolly taken by Matt Sillars during the engagement sessions at the Inverness skatepark last summer.

The collaboration between UHI Inverness and the local skateboarding community has developed into the Highland Board Brain Project, an initiative that will deliver mental health support, suicide first-aid training and resilience skills. Through Skateboard GB’s ‘Get Rolling’ course it will also provide professional coach or instructor qualifications for local skaters.

The other partners are The Ben Raemers Foundation, ex-pro skater John Rattray, Inverness Wheeled Sports Club, Highland Skate Parks Association, Inverness Creative Academy, Mikeysline, Brent Centre Highlands and Inverness Darkroom.

The Highland Board Brain project has secured funding from the Highland Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund to hold a variety of events over the next few months.

These events will provide mental health and first-aid training, coaching qualifications and creative activities for skateboarders. The project also aims to improve broader community wellbeing through mindfulness, increased physical activity and emotional regulation by introducing people to skating.

It is hoped the positive impact of these activities will encourage support for the need to identify an indoor skateboarding venue in Inverness for the winter months.

The events include:

  • Showing of Land’s End, Barney Page’s skate journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End to raise money for The Ben Raemer’s Foundation, the suicide prevention and mental health charity. Friday, 15 March, Velocity Bike Café, 6pm-8pm.
  • Suicide First Aid Training with skate focus run by Ben Raemer’s Foundation, Inverness Creative Academy, Saturday, 16 March, 1pm-5pm.
  • Risograph printing at Inverness Creative Academy, Saturday, 23 March, 10am-5pm. A chosen design will have the option of being turned into a custom skate deck.
  • First aid qualification with a focus on skatepark injuries, UHI Inverness, 26 and 27 March, 5.30pm-8.30pm.
  • Highland Board Brain Coaching sessions with LEEP Ahead students, UHI Inverness, 7-9 May. This three-day coaching session, involving skating, poetry and photography, will be held for the care experienced students on the LEEP Ahead programme at UHI Inverness.

To book some of these events visit TicketSource

The events also include Highland Board Brain Skate and Wellbeing Programme Saturday dates at skateparks across Inverness through May and June and during the summer holidays, including skateboarding coaching, decider skills training with Mikeysline and photography. These sessions will culminate with a Mental Health and Skating Comic Workshop themed around ‘What has skating ever done for us?’ by ex-pro skater John Rattray and comic artist Jon Horner. There are also plans to launch UHI Inverness skate and wellbeing research findings at this event.

Psychology lecturer Mari Todd said: “The skateboarding community and partners have been really generous with their time and resources to get this project off the ground. Our preliminary research findings show the skate community often provides a real sense of belonging and support to people who need it. This project will build on that and will allow skateboarders to develop skills to help others learn to skate and benefit from the mental health benefits of this activity.”

Ally Campbell, Vice Chairperson of Highland Skate Parks Association, said: “For many years, skateboarding has created a strong sense of community here in Inverness and I’ve witnessed first hand how skateparks become these social hubs where people from all walks of life gather, united by their love for the sport. Like many sports across the city, skateboarding provides a diversionary activity from simple boredom to much more serious negative influences; such as anti-social behaviour and criminal activities. It requires focus and creativity, offering a chance to access physical exercise, and for many who skate, an exhilarating alternative to more mainstream sports like football, rugby and athletics.”

Barry Collard, Co-Chairperson of the Inverness Wheeled Sports Club, said: “In its essence, skateboarding teaches people valuable life lessons such as perseverance and positive coping skills. Every skater falls, they get back up, and keep seeking the thrill of that next trick or grind. Progression means a sense of accomplishment and often spills over into other aspects of life, boosting confidence and self-esteem. It can initially be intimidating but the sense of community at a skatepark is amazing at helping people combat loneliness and it often fosters new friendships, which is of course crucial for mental wellbeing.”

Mari and Ally will talk about the Highland Board Brain project at the Highland Suicide Prevention Forum at the Police Scotland Headquarters in Inverness, 27 March.

Psychology lecturers held a series of engagement activities in the summer of 2023 exploring skatepark use, community and wellbeing through poetry and photography.

It resulted in an arts exhibition at UHI Inverness and a film short “A Different Gravitation” that was shown at Eden Court as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.

A panel-audience discussion following the screening and an online survey of skatepark users emphasised how skatepark use has a fundamental influence on skaters’ sense of identity, resilience and personal growth through overcoming challenges.