The organisation Mental Health Swims (MHS) celebrated its second anniversary with a cool (13 degree Celsius) dip in Hampstead Heath’s Mix Pond on Saturday 16 October. MHS was created by Rachel Ashe as a friendly, kind and welcoming space for anyone who wants to try outdoor swimming.
Fitting in or joining new groups can be daunting for anyone and is often harder for people living with mental health issues. After discovering the positive effects of cold water swimming on her own mental health, Rachel started a monthly meet-up at her local beach. This grew into MHS, a social enterprise “fighting stigma through cold water and community.”
There are now more than 80 volunteers around the UK hosting welcoming monthly MHS meet-ups. The emphasis is on shared experience and community rather than distance or time in the water – think quick dip followed by cake and coffee rather than a tough training session. To make themselves easily identifiable and approachable, swim hosts fly a pink pirate flag at their swim meets.
Rachel, who is based in Swansea, travelled to London to join other MHS swim hosts, swimmers and volunteers at Hampstead Heath Mixed Ponds. The swim was, of course, followed by cake.
Find out more about Mental Health Swims
Image: Rachel Ashe at Hampstead Heath with MHS’s pink pirate flag