Gym aims to exercise the mind while the body’s in lockdown

Projekt 42 has launched 'pay-what-you-can' counselling sessions for its local community.

Gym aims to exercise the mind while the body’s in lockdown Sara Hawkins via Twitter
Projekt 42 team at the gym before Covid-19 pandemic

An Edinburgh community gym is offering more than just physical support by launching free and ‘pay-what-you-can’ counselling sessions during lockdown.

Projekt 42 was forced to shut its premises due to the pandemic and had to transfer most of its services online.

Despite the difficulties, staff continued to work to help communities see and understand the connection between their physical fitness and their mental health and the need to take care of both.

They are encouraging locals to come to them for help with any mental health issues using a new ‘pay-what-you-can’ counselling and therapy service.

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Sara Hawkins, founder and CEO of Projekt, 42 told STV News: “While the charity’s revenue has declined by over 80%, at the same time, demand for the mental health provision we provide increased by 29.2%.

“The charity has not only seen an increase in the self-referrals being made to the charity but the types of help being requested are changing too. 

“We have faced an increase in adults with pre-existing mental health problems reporting that these got worse during the lockdown and are requesting long term support from Projekt 42.” 

Ms Hawkins believes that the combination of people being isolated from their friends and family, the lack of access to community-led activities and the impact the pandemic is having on people’s health and finances all mean that addressing mental health issues has never been more important. 

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At Projekt 42, counselling is delivered via a tele-health platform where clients receive a video link and can work with their counsellors from the safety of their own home. 

The service is available to anyone and can be accessed through completing a self-referral form.

Prices for 50-minute sessions with one of the 30 counsellors at the gym are based upon an individual’s income and every week they offer 50 hours of free and part-funded counselling available for those who may be out of work.

Ms Hawkins said: “We not only recognise the immediate need to increase access to our services but are consciously aware that the pandemic is not only aggravating existing mental health conditions.

“The psychological effects of social isolation and anxieties about the future, will leave a long-term impact on our mental health.

“We are therefore already planning for a further extension of our mental health services, so post Covid we can be ready to help people to adjust to life after lockdown.”

Kyle Wilson started using the mental health service at Projekt 42 in October.

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He said: “I’ve always needed counselling but pre-pandemic was heavily busy and focused on my freelance career in the music industry.

“Once I lost all of my work and pretty much a ten-year-career I decided it was time to get counselling.

“The guys at Projekt 42 were extremely accommodating as I have a strange work pattern with the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS on Covid testing sites.

“Since I started, I’ve been able to identify my triggers in terms of anxiety and alcohol/ drug abuse, which was part of my working life for yeas.

“Overall it has helped me to realise how to move forward and work on my own personal growth and relationships with other people.

“With these tools I’m much more confident and not afraid to stand up for myself.”

Ms Hawkins also explained the pandemic is not only aggravating existing mental health conditions but, the psychological effects of social isolation and anxieties about the future, will leave a long-term impact on our mental health.

“We are therefore already planning for a further extension of our services, so post Covid we can be ready to help people to adjust to life after lockdown.”