iCARP have created a mental health well-being centre for military veterans, 999 personnel and NHS staff struggling with PTSD or other mental health challenges in North Essex. We also work with early on set dementia sufferers, their carers, disenfranchised and vulnerable young people, isolated older people and children in palliative care.
Our history - Dr Mark Wheeler comes from a background of working in the NHS providing mental health support for traumatised patients. A high percentage of his surgeries in Colchester (super garrison town) were taken up by military veterans and he soon became aware of the large number of veterans struggling with their mental health that found attending formal therapy too much of a barrier due to the stigma attached to mental health issues. In 2012 Mark embarked on a research PhD at the University of Essex in Psychology. His aim was to identify and create an alternative to formal therapy that would alleviate poor mental health and also act as a conduit into care for those that struggled to engage through normal channels. His research one awards, Science & Health impact award 2018, and went on to published after peer review. Also in 2018 a documentary of his work was filmed and has currently been screened at five international documentary festivals and is being considered by the BBC and ITV for screening on their platforms. Dr Wheeler and Dr Cooper (University of Essex) then went on to form the not-for-profit CIC iCARP in 2018.
What do we do? – Our research demonstrates (published research paper link in email signature below) that by having people share group outdoor activity (fishing), giving them a new sense of purpose and momentum and a safe space to explore their mental health we can reduce their PTSD and other symptoms and improve their well-being. We run groups of participants from serving military (WIS), military veterans, 999 personnel, NHS staff and early on set dementia sufferers and carers. We provide qualified angling coaches, trained mental health staff, psychologists and volunteer mentors to create an environment that reduces the symptoms of poor mental health. We then implement a programme whereby there are tutored in fishing skills and encouraged to socialise and eat with the other members of the group in a two day one night bankside experience in the safe environment having mental health staff available if required. Before and after assessments of their moods are evaluated and signposting to mental health services are given if appropriate. We then encourage previous participants to return as volunteers and mentors to others. We also help facilitate continued contact between participants by hosting their own closed Facebook page. The podcast (link in email signature) gives a full overview of our work with testimony from a participant first hand (worth watching for a more in-depth explanation of our work). We, this year, begin working in collaboration with the University of Essex and the NIHR on a large four-year longitudinal study into our intervention and how it may be suitable for social prescription across the NHS.
Site plans for iCARP lakes – The acquisition of a lease for three irrigation ponds on a farm in Essex is key to our plans for the future. We intend to utilise this as a base for our future research and we will be able to expand our patient group to other deserving recipients too. We will look to shift to around the year provision of a social prescribed green exercise intervention to improve mental well-being. We now have an office and therapy rooms on site. We have introduced disabled access to swims and utilise the three lakes to offer a variation of angling experiences. We have created an amphibian/reptile reserve at one end of the site and also have bee hives and bee keepers on site. We also have a large selection of rare breed chickens at the well-being centre that we utilise with our visitors as working with animals can be very therapeutic for some. We will look to extensively plant trees on the site to offer habitat and protection for wildlife and wildflowers to encourage bees and butterflies.