Surfing to Better Mental Health

Welcome waves:Mark Micelli, Anglicare Mental Health Case Manager at Wanda Beach.Picture John Veage

Welcome waves:Mark Micelli, Anglicare Mental Health Case Manager at Wanda Beach.Picture John Veage

A new Cronulla surfing program is helping people struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges to ride a wave to recovery.

The Waves of Wellness program put together with Anglicare in partnership with surf charity Waves of Wellness is an 8 week group that encourages participants to get outside, get active, and start thinking about their mental health and overall wellness

Each week group members take part in a 20 to 30 minute discussion about mental health and wellness and then go for a paddle,which is facilitated by a mental health professional.

According to Mark Micelli, Anglicare Mental Health Case Manager, the group is about encouraging participants and facilitators to share what they have found works for them in developing their own unique “recipe for wellness”.

“Being at the beach and in the water allows people to engage in a group, in an environment that feels comfortable. It becomes a safe space to share their struggles if they wish to. Having various individuals share and contribute shows others that they are not alone and that it’s okay, not to be okay,” says Mark.

This program has been an important part of Tamara Murray’s recovery journey.

“I was struggling with my own health at the time when I heard about the program,” says Tamara.

“I attempted suicide a couple of years before and ended up in hospital. I was feeling helpless and without hope. I didn’t believe anyone around me who told me I would get through this and there would be better days ahead.

“I found the program purely by chance through social media and started the Waves of Wellness program last year. I loved surfing as a child, but it was something I stopped doing when I was older.  It’s been a great help to me and now I have come back to assist the program as a volunteer.”

For Tamara, there is something about the beach that helps her minimize her problems and clears her head.

“The fact that it’s not just another surfing program, but a small group as well, gave me the motivation to turn up every week. The process of learning to surf again helped me in my life as well. As first I never thought I’d make it out to the break, but I did. Then I thought I would never be able to catch a wave, but I did. All these small wins, helped me realise I was capable of doing much more. I realised that I could get out of bed, even if my depression told me I couldn’t. I could make it through the day, even though I felt I couldn’t.”

To those who are struggling Tamara says “Just hang in there. Just hang in there for the next five minutes, then for the next hour. Soon the day will be over and you’ll realise you survived it.”

For more information about the Waves of Wellness surfing program, contact Anglicare on 0402 933 481-the Waves of Wellness website is www.foundationwow.org.

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