A NEW foundation has been established in Fermanagh to help support mental health and wellbeing.

Fermanagh Mental Wellness and Physical Vitality Foundation has come into fruition as its committee wished to use fitness as a way to work through various mental and physical health conditions.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, committee Chair, Ruth Makhlouf, said: “The foundation is a culmination of cross-community representatives with one common passion – health and fitness.

"This recently established group comprises gym members from Smart Gym, Lisnaskea, and is reflective of diversity, religion and culture where inclusivity is placed at the heart of what we aim to provide.”

The programme will take place at Smart Gym with the staff there leading the programme. The group are beginning to associate themselves with several organisations throughout Fermanagh, but access to this group's work can be done on an individual basis if someone wishes to access the programme individually.

Speaking of the foundation’s aims, Ruth said: “Fermanagh’s Mental Wellness and Physical Vitality Foundation has been formed with the sole purpose of helping others in terms of their general mental health and physical wellbeing.

"Research clearly shows the hugely positive effects of exercise, and we aim to offer bespoke services to the wider community which provides a holistic approach incorporating exercise, nutrition and mindfulness.

“Every individual is valued equally and respected regardless of background, belief or affiliation. The proprietors of the gym, Michal and Mechelle Inhat, are passionate about mental wellbeing and its link to the fitness sector.”

The staff have been specially trained in order to take on this new role with the foundation, as Ruth explained.

“Michal is currently finishing a degree in nutrition to enhance his extensive professional development in this field. His enthusiasm for the link between a healthy, balanced diet and overall physical and mental wellbeing makes him ideally suited to drive this initiative forward effectively.

“One of our specialists, Liam McCaffery, a personal trainer, has obtained five qualifications within the field of mental health and is an exercise referral specialist for such conditions.”

The committee have all previously experienced issues with mental or physical health conditions, and found the benefit of exercise, as Ruth explained.

“ Within the founding committee members, there are people who have experienced [difficulties with] mental health and physical conditions, whereby physical activity and exercise has effectively saved their lives.

“We have members with experience of PTSD, depression and coronary heart attacks. It is true to say that the gym environment has been pivotal to all our rehabilitation and recovery from an array of physical and psychological conditions.”

The group wishes to help others through this foundation and says that the Coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on mental health in the community.

Ruth continued: “It’s fair to generalise that the pandemic has been detrimental to health overall. Its devastating effect on mental ill health has been profound, and the negative implications are predicted as severe in the long term.

“Countless studies have forecasted an avalanche of mental health referrals, with the NHS already at backlog point. Unfortunately, the statistics also reveal that for many it’s too late by the time they receive help.”

Many in the community find themselves unable to get help due to waiting lists,. Ruth said: “Referrals to mental health services [may] have between a six to nine month waiting list before an initial assessment.

"It is inevitable that this gap will widen further post-Covid-19. This is not a criticism in any way, it’s just systemic and circumstantial as things stand, through nobody’s fault.”

Fermanagh Mental Wellness and Physical Vitality Foundation will hold an official event on Friday, June 11 at to launch the foundation.

For further information on the foundation and its work, email Ruth at ruth.makhlouf@yahoo.co.uk.