Being in a busy police control room, taking dramatic calls deeply affected Rob Richards.
The 41-year-old suffered depression and anxiety and began to search for inner peace; after reading Microadventures by Alistair Humphreys, he was inspired to take his own mini adventures.
Realising this was an effective way of boosting his own happiness, he set up Adventures in Wellbeing, aimed at enabling police staff and officers of Lancashire Constabulary and their families, to take part in fun outdoor activities.
The project allows staff to take on experiences such as camping, swimming, and orienteering.
Rob, who now works with the Lancashire Volunteer Partnership with the Lancashire Constabulary and Lancashire County Council, says: “Being a police officer means you see it all. I was working in a control room, taking quite traumatic calls.
“One minute you could be taking a call on a missing child, abuse or someone has found a dead body. I took it all on board and it got to the point where I was exceptionally tired and I had a mental breakdown.
After struggling myself, I knew how beneficial being outdoors was and so I set up Adventures in Wellbeing to encourage people to try new outdoor activities.Rob Richards
“I was working shifts and travelling a lot and all that kind of stuff affects your mind.
“I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
“So I took some time off work and I spent a lot of time outdoors and did lots of walking around.
“About this time last year, I started looking at what I can do. There has been a change in culture with the force, as it has been looking at wellbeing and taking care of staff.
“Chief Cons Andy Rhodes, the lead for wellbeing in the police force, does a lot with regards to that and I wanted to see what I could do to help people.
“I came across a book, Microadventures by Alistair Humphreys, which is about doing small adventures, such as going to the river, camping and doing things outside.
“After struggling myself, I knew how beneficial being outdoors was and so I set up Adventures in Wellbeing to encourage people to try new outdoor activities.
“Since launching the project, many people have said that they have always wanted to take part in adventure activities, but haven’t due to fitness, confidence, financial pressure and childcare.
“My aim is for this group to act as an ongoing support network and as a stepping stone for those looking to get outside but unsure how.
“We started off with some barbecues and we did some bushcrafts and that was well received.
“It was a bunch of people who didn’t know each other but they enjoyed getting away from the stresses of work.
“We had overnight camps and we went mountain biking through the Peak District.
“We have lots of plans for this year. We will look at stand up paddleboarding, canoeing in The Lakes, walks, cycling and camping.
“We try to make sure we can cater for as many different abilities as possible.
“We have had lots of positive feedback.
“It is really difficult to talk when you are struggling at work. Everyone is busy and there is never a quiet place to chat, but when we have these activities, everyone relaxes and the conversation flows. People are very open about their experiences.”
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To aid Adventures in Wellbeing in supporting police staff, Police Mutual, the not-for-profit financial services provider, awarded it a small grant through its Force for Good scheme.
Rob adds: “We want to make sure there is funding available.
“If people are struggling to afford the costs, we don’t want any barriers, as we want to help. So it has been really good having this grant from Police Mutual.
“We also received a donation of outdoor equipment from The Alpkit Foundation.”
Whilst the group is just for police staff, Rob adds there are other similar organisations for the wider community. He says: “There are lots of walking and activity groups out there. It is good to get outdoors and try new activities.”