Welcome to OutdoordadNI! Over the coming weeks and months, I plan to publish articles focusing on being a Dad, and using the outdoors to encourage positive mental health.
My wife and our two children (a wee 3 month old girl and a 3 year old boy) moved to the countryside in the northern Sperrin Mountains last year. This initiative is in part, a way for me to focus in trying to breathe new life into an old farm, and help us focus on how to best use the place we now call “home”.
Why this blog?
The statistics are well publicised. 305 died by suicide in Northern Ireland during 2017. That amounts to six deaths a week. The suicide rate for men, as well as for women, is higher in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK or Ireland. This is a particularly brutal statistic, as suicide is the single biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 in the UK.
My friend became part of those brutal statistics on a Sunday three years ago. This initiative is part of my way of trying to honour his memory.
Last year, I became a director and board member of a brilliant suicide prevention charity, Lighthouse. In some small way I also hope to raise awareness of their work through this initiative.
Why the outdoors?
Doctors in Scotland have started to prescribe nature as a treatment for their patients.Forest Europe has found that there is a lot of evidence that forests boost mental health wellbeing. New initiatives such as Mountains For the Mind have started as it’s been scientifically proven that spending time in the great outdoors is a powerful natural anti-depressant, and regular exercise can reduce the risk of depression by 30%. Being outside and being active is by no means the entire answer for positive mental health, but it can be an important part of the solution.
I fell in love with white water kayaking during my undergrad at Queen’s University Belfast, ended up president of the canoe club and worked in Tiso, an outdoor gear shop. I’m a self-confessed outdoor gear geek, so expect some gear reviews up here!
I got the outdoor bug and through my MA looked at the use of outdoor experiential learning as a tool for conflict transformation. I paid my way through this MA by working as the Good Relations Officer at the Belfast Activity Centre and spent weeks in South Africa looking at how organisations like Outward Bound use outdoor learning for peacebuilding. Over a decade ago I became a kayak coach, obtained my Accredited Practitioner for the Institute for Outdoor Learning and became a Leave no Trace trainer.
Last Christmas I was reminded of my love for the outdoors by Alastair Humphrey’s fantastic Microadventures book. It reminded me of who I am and helped me focus on what kind of Dad I want to be. I want my children to grow up knowing muck under their boots and the power of the outdoors to improve their own mental wellbeing.
I work full time as a Programme Director at the Leadership Institute at Queens University Belfast and I have a passion for mediation, negotiation and conflict resolution. OutdoordadNI is a passion project, so I’ll be updating Instagram regularly, Twitter sometimes and this blog when I can.
I’d really appreciate any thoughts so please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
Looking forward to seeing where this goes.