Throughout Covid-19, we have been supporting people with practical support and friendly conversations through our Listen and Connect service. As restrictions have eased, we have also began to offer support through physical activity, including walking and cycling, on a one-to-one and small group basis.
Ryan has anxiety, depression and PTSD. He explained to us that he has had a “difficult childhood and a difficult life”.
Ryan recently moved back to Birmingham, following the death of his Dad’s girlfriend. Ryan’s Dad had a bleed on the brain, so had to move into a care home.
When helping his Dad move, Ryan found that his Dad had no clothes and neither he nor his Dad could afford to buy any.
Ryan’s Dad’s social worker team arranged for a clothing parcel to be sent from us. When we contacted Ryan to ask how the parcel was, he told us it exceeded his expectations by a long way and that they were really grateful for it.
He also told us he was going through a difficult time, so we connected him to our Listen and Connect service, which could provide a safe space for him to talk about what he was going through, alongside practical support.
As part of Listen and Connect, Abdul started calling Ryan regularly to check in with him. Ryan told us that just knowing someone was there for him made a big difference, especially someone who takes a genuine interest in people’s wellbeing. Having regular phone calls meant Ryan and Abdul were able to get to know one another.
“It’s nice to have somebody that you actually know, rather than just some stranger on the end of the phone. It’s nice to feel like, he’s like having a friend, like someone who is just caring who can be there for you.”
Abdul is also a cycling instructor so runs one-to-one cycling sessions for some of the people he is supporting who feel ready to take the next step out, which Ryan has now joined. Because of his anxiety, he didn’t feel ready to join a group but felt comfortable cycling with Abdul on a one-to-one basis.
Ryan, who used to cycle when he was younger, has been enjoying the sessions with Abdul. The two of them can still talk, but it’s also an opportunity to get outside, be active, and have a social connection.
“I live a fairly isolated life and don’t really know anybody… So walking, it becomes quite lonely. Cycling is a bit more enjoyable and a bit more physical as well, you know. And obviously it’s nice to be able to have somebody to cycle with.”
We’ve been working with health partners and Raleigh to give away free bikes to people in Birmingham whose mental and physical health would benefit from cycling. At one of Ryan’s sessions, we told him the bike he’d been riding would be his to keep.
When Ryan found out he could keep the bike he was really pleased.
Exercise makes such a big difference to Ryan, and is one of the only things that helps with his anxiety and depression. Previously he didn’t have the means to access his own bike. Now that he’s got his own, he plans to visit new places, cycle with friends and get outside more. He says the bike will help him to go further.
“To be able to have my own bike, to be able to go cycling, is great. I’m so happy about it. I don’t know, I can’t really put it into words, but I’m really pleased and I feel really privileged. It’s a big deal to me.”
Ryan continues his cycling sessions with Abdul, on his new bike. Soon, some of the one-to-one sessions Abdul has been running will join together to make a small group, and Ryan says he is looking forward to meeting new faces.
You can find out more about our Listen and Connect Service here, or contact us on 0121 728 7030.