Exercise, many people with mental health difficulties are often told to exercise. However some mightn’t like traditional exercise. Especially if you are already struggling with depression or anxiety related issues, the motivation and energy may simply not be there. Many will assume that exercising means running or going to the gym. However, we have found an alternative that enables you to exercise, express yourself and be involved in a community of support.
Enter skateboarding. Modern skateboarding has existed for over 40 years now which is older than its most well known demographic, teenagers. Yet many adults still skateboard well into their 40’s such as the godfather of modern skating, Rodney Mullen. Who is quoted as saying “skateboarding is the freest form of self expression”. In the skateboarding community how good someone is usually considered not by how many tricks they can do, but how much they express themselves in their skateboarding style. Unlike traditional exercise and even some sports there is no coach, there is no guide book and no one way to skateboard. This allows for people to be creative and express themselves and in a society where mental health is still partly stigmatised. An example is those who may have may have difficulty managing their anger are seen skating in an “aggressive” style, putting lots of: force, power and speed into their tricks. Serving as a valuable outlet to put those issues into and change them into tricks and style.
Those with anxiety difficulties, concerned in every day life that they’re being judged or disliked can learn that this isn’t the case with skateboarding. Their mistakes and falls aren’t judged, but helped back up with a smile, every skateboarder has fallen before and understands it’s hard at times. This can build confidence as they have an environment free from any type of judgment and full of support.
The skateboarding community is known as one of the most welcoming communities as regardless of someones health, gender, race or age everyone shares a passion, skateboarding. This may be the reason why it is such a supportive space as every skateboarder wants to see each other succeed and will support one another to do that.
Some local skateboarders told me what they thought about skateboarding and its relationship with mental health. Here is what Corey had to say “If you’re sat in your room all day doing f*** all but feeling s*** then definitely. You can come out and not know anyone and someone will engage with you they’ll talk to you just because you’ve got a board”.
Local skateboarders seem to have the same attitude as the pros, Mullen said at the same presentation. “The contribution to the community is the more we express and form our individuality, which is so important to a lot of us that feel like rejects”.
One skateboarder Brad told me “Its sick it keeps you motivated to get out cus nobody cares bout mistakes its just you and the board and you just want to get out everyday an improve”.
Before I left the skate park I was told “Its definitely beneficial, without skating I’d have killed myself real talk, when you’re getting bullied in school and nothing else is enjoyable it’s a saviour it’s like meditating”. I asked them if it still had that same effect as they where older now, we where told “It never leaves you it teaches you lessons man”.
It seems skateboarding leaves you with a life long mindset, fall, mess up, get hurt, but pick yourself up and try again and again until you get there. As I watched, skateboarders will try a trick until they get it and accept the bruises along the way. Yet the more they try the less they fall, the better they get. This mindset cannot be understated in its help for mental health. You’ll have bad days, you’ll have set backs there will be falls, but you’ll get back up and keep trying.