Psychotherapy and Mental Health Skills Coaching Service for boat dwellers launches today

Today, at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, a Psychotherapy and Mental Health Skills Coaching Service for itinerant boat dwellers has been launched, supported by the NBTA and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. The NBTA sends its heartfelt thanks to all the people who play the National Lottery every week for helping members of our community to access the mental health support that they need.

The Psychotherapy and Mental Health Skills Coaching Service will offer free of charge or low cost individual sessions for Bargee Travellers who are suffering from poor mental health. To contact the service please phone 0118 321 4128, email or use the online contact form here

A pool of mental health practitioners from the boat dwelling and wider Travelling communities will offer short term individual therapy and free skills coaching workshops for conditions including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and re-integration since Covid-19 restrictions; and will be able to help boat dwellers to access longer term health resources.

The service is led by Bargee Traveller Helen Brice, who says:
“Whilst boaters with a nomadic habit of life take to the waterways for a multitude of reasons, for some it is their first step up from homelessness. These members of our community are often psychologically vulnerable and live in relative poverty. Also, Bargee Travellers moor our homes in public spaces on the inland waterways, and thus are vulnerable to public observation and unsolicited comments, many of which are friendly, but a significant number are critical and unpleasant. In some areas we are subjected to verbal abuse and criminal attacks on our homes, which increases the stress on people who are not robust psychologically. During the Covid-19 lockdowns it became clear that there was a need for an accessible psychological service from psychotherapists who also understood boat life.”

She adds: “Whilst counselling and psychotherapy services are difficult to access for many people, the travelling boater community is particularly penalised by exclusion from registering with a GP due to their No Fixed Address status. This is prejudiced and unlawful, but it occurs frequently.

The impact of the Covid-19 restrictions, when everyone was encouraged to exercise outside, meant that Bargee Travellers’ homes were within inches of the numerous cyclists, joggers and walkers who took to the towpaths, and boat dwellers’ anxiety about the risk of contracting Covid-19 was completely overlooked.”

Tyler Hatwell, Psychotherapist, Travelling Showman and founder of Traveller Pride said:
“There are too many groups who are still excluded from accessing mental health support due to practical barriers as well as a lack of cultural understanding, so another service to combat this is vital and timely. Knowing that your background or way of life isn’t going to be a stumbling block, that you’ll be met as you are without misunderstanding or prejudice, can make all the difference.”