The Circus Saved My Life: Moving for Mental Health
A Perth personal trainer, who battled with depression and anxiety, is crediting a local circus club with saving her life.
Suzie Bee (35), an instructor with Adventure Circus, is participating in free workshops and a circus show at the Perth and Kinross Mental Health and Wellbeing Festival at Perth Concert Hall on Sunday 20 August 2023 (lunchtime).
Now in its third year and organised by Perth charity Trauma Healing Together, this year’s festival theme is ‘Mental Health for All: Promoting Inclusivity and Connection’, aimed at breaking down the barriers people face when seeking or accessing support. Taking place on 19 and 20 August, the festival will offer a packed programme of activities, talks and workshops, allowing visitors to explore everything from mindful photography, arts and crafts, a silent disco and all-ability fitness to art journalling, while also tapping into support with autism and trauma.
Adventure Circus is part of Live Active’s Sport for Change Network which, founded in October 2022, brings Perth-based sports clubs together with the aim of reducing inequalities that prevent local people from accessing quality sport and physical activity opportunities.
Suzie Bee (35) from Perth, a senior leader at Adventure Circus and a part-time personal trainer, came to the club’s first-ever adult class eight years ago. She has since progressed from participant to instructor and performer.
Suzie said, “From my first taster session, I fell in love with Adventure Circus and have never looked back. When I first went, I wasn’t in a good place. I had been signed off work for six months and felt like I had nothing going for me. I was struggling with depression, anxiety and was suicidal. Adventure Circus was the only thing I consistently looked forward to, the focus of my week. For me, it shows you things that look impossible, you work through them and they become possible. I then started applying that to the rest of my life, to keep persevering – it’s made a huge impact on my life and my outlook and has essentially saved my life.
Now teaching children’s classes, aerial hoop and silks, yoga, aerial yoga and a circus-based fitness class, Suzie is urging people who are struggling to give it a go – “It might not seem like the obvious choice of clubs to come along to but, as part of the Sport for Change Network, we are there to support those who are struggling and, because of my lived experience, I can put them at ease. We do things at the student’s pace, such as adjusting the height of our equipment, building skills up gradually and just doing what’s comfortable for them. Adventure Circus is so inclusive, there’s room for everyone here. We have some students who were not physically strong or flexible when they started, but were extremely creative so, no matter your background, all are welcome. I’d say come along and give it a go. You might be surprised by what you can do.”
This year, the Sport for Change Network is focusing on mental health and wellbeing, providing training and funding opportunities to the network’s clubs to increase the reach of local clubs. Thanks to funding from the Perth and Kinross Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund and The Gannochy Trust, Adventure Circus can offer sessions aimed at wellbeing including hula hooping to support people experiencing menopause, a Women’s Aid support group and mindfulness sessions such as aerial yoga and yoga for holistic health.
Roxanne Kerr, CEO of Trauma Healing Together and festival organiser added, “When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, we should not take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Everyone’s challenges and barriers are different. Because of that, the festival takes a partnership approach, involving lots of local groups who are all offering different solutions and options. We are delighted that the Sport for Change Network is joining us to show those who might be struggling that there is a huge range of support out there, and support than can also be fun!”
Gemma Simpson, Sport Development Officer, Live Active Leisure added, “Participation in regular physical activity improves self-esteem and reduces stress and anxiety. Sports clubs are therefore vitally important to help raise awareness, tackle mental health stigmas, and support members going through tough times. We are delighted to be showcasing our array of inclusive activities at the Perth and Kinross Mental Health and Wellbeing Festival and to show visitors that there’s something for everyone and for all abilities.”
This year’s festival is funded by the Scottish Government’s Perth and Kinross Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund and Perth and Kinross Council’s Community Investment Fund.
Perth and Kinross Mental Health and Wellbeing Festival is organised by Trauma Healing Together with support from All Strong, Change Mental Health, Linda’s Ladies, Live Active Sport, Kelly McIntyre Photography, MoveAhead, Perth Autism, Perth Minorities Association, Plus Perth, Stephen Lyon Organisation, Endometriosis UK Dundee Support Group, Project Forte, ESOL, Trinity Church, Mindspace, SCARF, Starting Step, and Vitality Me.
For more information, visit https://www.traumahealingtogether.org/mental-health-festival-2023