Today is national ‘Time to Talk Day’, led by Time To Change – a campaigning organisation that wants to get the nation talking and breaking the silence around mental health problems.
Here at Sported we are well aware of the amazing benefits sport and physical activity can have on a person’s mental health and it should be seen as equally important as the ‘physical’ benefits that everyone knows playing sport can have. It is understood that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime and 1 in 10 children will have a mental disorder at any one time.
We have several fantastic member organisations from across the UK which deliver activities designed to support those who need support with their mental well-being, and use sport and physical activity to do so. This includes the Brentwood Centre’s award winning Fitness in Mind (FIM) programme and Empire Fighting Chance in Bristol to give two very successful examples.
FIM run classes at the Brentwood leisure centre in Essex in activities as diverse as netball, mixed martial arts and yoga. Attendees of all ages and backgrounds are welcome and, for those that need extra help, there are activators and support workers on hand to support them during the session. Afterwards there is a chance to check in with each other and discuss how they are feeling and provide peer support with each other.
Empire have participants from referrals and run a range of programmes, from a general dedicated ‘Box Fit’ session through to a patient centric, holistic programme that offers mentoring, counselling and access to better employment and education prospects.
At any community group or organisation that delivers sports activities for young people, regardless of their overall aim or mission, one of the most positive outcomes is the improved mental health and well-being of those who take part. Just the act of being active and taking exercise is good for the body and mind, including increased self-esteem, reduced stress and lower anxiety and depression. Being part of a group of like-minded people enjoying a fun activity also increases a sense of well-being and belonging. It means young people are communicating with their peers and with others within their local community, so they don’t feel so isolated. It can also mean they have a support network of friends and colleagues who can look out for them and spot any signs that something is wrong.
This last point is something we can all increase our awareness of through the Mental Health First Aid course, delivered by Mental Health First Aid England. I was invited to attend this course by Fitness in Mind in Brentwood. The version I attended lasted two full days, but there are other ways of delivering the course to suit schedules.
For someone with very little direct experience of mental ill health, the course was a real eye-opener and drilled home the importance that understanding everyone’s mental well-being, as well as your own, can make a real difference. Just like a ‘physical’ first aid course is designed to help with basic life-saving skills, the mental health version is designed so people have a greater understanding of what to do if someone is suffering from a mental health issue or are feeling stressed or vulnerable at that time.
In any well-run sports group or other community organisation, the well-being of its members or participants is the foremost consideration. We have no problem understanding the need to attend a basic Emergency First Aid course as a tool to increase the safety of those taking part in club activities, but maybe we now need to consider learning more about Mental Health First Aid too. If it increases awareness and understanding of the issues affecting so many people across the country, then that can only be a win.
To find out more about the Mental Health First Aid course and where local courses are taking place, click the link. https://mhfaengland.org/adult-mhfa/