“The most amazing program I have ever done”: First responders discover the mental health benefits of surfing

Fortem ran a pilot program with the foundation Waves of Wellness to provide 10 first responders with identified mental health concerns the opportunity to attend mental health education combined with a learning to surf program.

The Waves of Wellness program uses evidenced-based programs to help the participants to develop skills and strategies to manage mental ill health.

Since completing the program, the participants have reported improvements in connection, improvements in mental health, and feeling like they understand more skills for managing mental ill health and wellbeing. Participants also reported they are now more likely to reach out for help. This program has also showed promising outcomes in previous cohorts suffering from PTSD, depression and anxiety.

The pre/post data reflects positive outcomes for people level of activity increasing roughly 30 minutes. Their level of social connectedness went up one point and they were able to reflect on learning skills to manage stress and how to be calm.

Feedback from the program included:

“I am more aware of the importance of keeping active and connected, instead of a tendency to enter into periods of reclusiveness.”

“(I am now) mindful of the issues my colleagues may be dealing with outside of work, that I may have no idea about.”

“Was the best activity I have been to so far that promoted connection, noticeable improvement to wellbeing, and fun.”

“This was the most amazing program I have ever done. It challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and learn a new skill. It also gave me something to do and a routine even when I didn’t want to leave my house.”