A PILOT psychotherapy and mental health skills coaching service for boat dwellers without a permanent mooring was launched during Mental Health Awareness Week.
The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) was awarded nearly £10,000 by the National Lottery Community Fund to support the low-cost service. NBTA chairperson Pamela Smith said: “Our heartfelt thanks go to all the people who play the National Lottery every week for helping members of our community to access the mental health support that they need.”
Project leader Helen Brice, who has lived on a boat without a permanent mooring for 13 years, explained why the service is needed: “While boaters with a nomadic habit of life take to the waterways for a multitude of reasons, for some it is their first step up from homelessness. These members of our community are often psychologically vulnerable and live in relative poverty.
“Furthermore, bargee travellers moor their homes in public spaces on the inland waterways and thus are vulnerable to public observation and unsolicited comments, many of which are friendly, but a significant number are critical and unpleasant.”
She continued: “During the Covid-19 lockdowns it became clear that there was a need for an accessible psychological service from psychotherapists who also understood boat life.
“While counselling and psychotherapy services are difficult to access for many people, the travelling boater community is particularly penalised by exclusion from registering with a GP due to their No Fixed Address status.
“The impact of the Covid-19 restrictions, when everyone was encouraged to exercise outside, meant that bargee travellers’ homes were within inches of the numerous cyclists, joggers and walkers who took to the towpaths and boat dwellers’ anxiety about the risk of contracting Covid-19 was completely overlooked.”
The psychotherapy and mental health skills coaching service will offer free-of-charge or low-cost individual sessions for boat dwellers without permanent moorings who are still suffering from this negative impact on their mental health.
Helen has formed a directory of mental health practitioners from the boat dwelling and wider travelling communities.
She will offer low-cost short term individual therapy and free skills coaching workshops for conditions including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and re-integration since Covid-19 restrictions and will be able to help boat dwellers to access longer-term health resources.
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