Delight for Gordon as mental health project gets green light

Gordon Allan pictured during a countryside walk.
Gordon Allan pictured during a countryside walk.

A Ponteland man has taken a step closer to achieving his aim of a new Northumberland-wide support network for adults with mental health issues.

Talking Matters and project partners Active Northumberland have been given £142,000 of National Lottery funding from Sport England for a three-year period.

It is the brainchild of Gordon Allan, whose wife Sally died as the result of a private battle with mental illness.

He was instrumental in bringing together the various stakeholders for the initiative. It involves creating a link between organisations and clubs to improve the well-being, recovery and resilience of individuals through sports and physical activity.

The project will start in the Alnwick and Hexham areas, but he hopes that it will eventually cover the whole of Northumberland.

Talking Matters, which provides the NHS Talking Therapy service in Northumberland, will employ two volunteer co-ordinators.

The co-ordinators will recruit and manage the volunteers.

The volunteers, who will be fully trained, will provide one-to-one support to encourage the adults – who will be referred to them by Talking Matters and GP practices – to participate in a sport or physical activity.

Active Northumberland will work with the volunteers, sports clubs, leisure centres and other activity providers to identify suitable opportunities in the person’s local community.

Sally Allan went missing on Boxing Day in 2015. Her body was recovered from water near South Shields on February 3, 2016.

Gordon said: “After the organisations came together to support my idea to create a network of people who could focus on helping those with mental health issues, it’s great to now receive this funding.

“The volunteers will work with health and county organisations to get the people who are referred to them involved in a sport or other physical activity that they are comfortable with, which will help to improve their self-confidence.

“I know walking has helped me when I have been struggling to cope with the loss of Sally.

“We’re grateful for the support of National Lottery players and look forward to giving something back by improving mental health outcomes in the county.

“With the support of the local communities, we believe that over three years we can help more than 1,500 people.”

He added that the recruitment process starts next month with advertising the three-days-a-week volunteer co-ordinator posts and the aim is for the project to start in March.

As part of the initiative, Tyneside and Northumberland Mind will provide Sport England approved mental health awareness for sports and physical activity training to sports and activity providers.

Northumberland County Council has awarded the project a grant of £30,000 and further financial support has come from Northumberland Sport and Hexham and Alnwick Town Councils.

Sport England’s director of sport, Phil Smith, said: “Volunteering can do wonders for job and career prospects, mental health and making friends.

“That’s why volunteering sits at the heart of Sport England’s new strategy and we’re delighted to be helping Talking Matters and Active Northumberland to enable more volunteers to be the catalysts for change in their communities.”

For more information about the project, email