Mental Health Swims
1873. Rachel Ashe
Rachel Ashe, from Swansea, is the founder of ‘Mental Health Swims’, a social enterprise helping people in over 80 locations across the UK take up cold water swimming to benefit their mental health.
Rachel started the initiative after taking the plunge with a New Year’s Day dip in the sea in 2019, and found that cold water swimming and being outdoors greatly helped her through a mental illness diagnosis. ‘Mental Health Swims’ has now trained over 200 volunteers nationwide in mental health awareness and water safety courses to act as swim hosts and provide safe and welcoming peer spaces for anyone living with mental health challenges of any swimming ability to build confidence, connect with others in their community and offer one another peer support. All dips emphasise wellbeing and companionship over distance and competitive swimming, and are often followed by social activities and beach litter picks.
In a personal letter to Rachel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“From your own mental health journey, you know the importance of exercise and self-care on mental wellbeing. So it is brilliant that you have helped hundreds of people improve their physical and mental health through the challenge of cold water swimming.
“I was also inspired to learn that you have trained over 200 volunteers supporting people in over 80 locations. I wish you every success as you continue to grow your movement.”
“It was such a wonderful surprise to find out that ‘Mental Health Swims’ work was being celebrated with this wonderful award. Thank you so much!
“I am being awarded as a Point of Light but I am nothing without our amazing team and the incredible network of ‘Mental Health Swims’ volunteers across the UK.
“I have so much love and respect for all our amazing volunteers who do an outstanding job of making safe and welcoming spaces for people living with mental health challenges.
“Moments like this are incredibly validating of the hard work we do.”
Photo credit: Nick Morrish