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Minds Matter Club supporting mental health

The CalMac Community Fund was established to make a difference to the communities in which CalMac operates, by supporting local groups to tackle local needs. The Fund aims to help people connect with services and each other, especially around the following key themes: reducing social isolation; improving health and wellbeing; addressing issues related to poverty, especially in relation to the cost-of-living crisis; and local and community transport.

Impact Story:  Minds Matter Club, Oban

Minds Matter was in the very early stages of starting a weekly peer to peer support group for women at the local Rockfield Centre in Oban when it received £2,000 funding from the CalMac Community Fund to deliver horse therapy and craft sessions.


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The Club was created by four facilitators, trained in mental health first aid and suicide awareness, with the goal of helping local women access peer support with their mental health and wellbeing in an informal setting.


In addition to the weekly peer support group the Club wanted to provide additional wellbeing activities due to understanding peer support is not for everyone initially. Some women require support to build their confidence first. One woman, who could not manage the peer-to-peer meetings due to anxiety, managed the horse therapy and has helped her anxiety and confidence immensely.


As this was the first year of operation the Club were unsure how the sessions would be received by the women, but they were a huge success with fourteen women taking part in total with the horse therapy and the craft workshops delivered by Highland Glass. 


The horse therapy was delivered every fortnight between April and November in 2022 and although some women were very nervous at first, they grew in confidence after each session with the horses and by the end of the year they were out the arena and riding over moorland both competently and confidently crossing streams and riding up and down the banks.  All things they never imagined they could do.


The women created a bond with the horses through feeding and brushing them after each ride and learned to trust them over time. The women have stated they benefited so much from the therapy and are keen to continue learning more.


One member said, “This horse therapy literally saved me. I was in such a dark place and just having this gave me something to look forward to. I love that it’s a group of like-minded women doing this, and I don’t need to feel awkward for not dressing correctly or not speaking if I don’t feel like it that day. This has helped me so much to get connected again.”


A committee member for Minds Matter Club said, “I think it is a wonderful gesture that Calmac help the communities where they operate. We were extremely grateful as a very small grassroots organisation to get these funds to help our group. I think the process is simple to apply and not too taxing to report back. In my opinion Calmac have got it just right.”

Individual Case Study: Erin


Erin*, aged 20, contacted the Mind Matters Club after reading a post on Facebook about horse therapy due to suffering from both physical and mental health issues. While Erin does not look physically unwell, she is in pain 24/7 and takes strong medication to manage it daily. Her eyesight has been affected, and she has been left with tunnel vision which means she can no longer work or drive. Apart from her therapy dog, who is her main companion and helper, she wasn’t interested in much and didn’t want to go out, resulting in her being extremely isolated.


Erin absolutely loved the horse therapy, and to watch her on the horse, no one would know she had any issues with her health and wellbeing. She said it made her feel free and equal to others again, and her anxiety and depression reduced. As soon as her session finishes, she is excited to return for more and see the horses again. She has also made new friends with others in the horse therapy sessions, and they message back and forth, giving her an additional support network outside the Club. Erin told the Club it has saved her life and the horse therapy came at the right time in her life. It has let her see she still has things she can enjoy and cope with.


She is doing more horse riding with the group this year (2023) and has completely come out of her shell attending the Crafternoon sessions now as well with her therapy dog.