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6 May 2021 | 8:08

Next week is 'Mental Health Awareness Week', and the Sport for Development Coalition is continuing its theme of ‘Sport tackles the Mental Health and Wellbeing Crisis’ in partnership with Mind.

The impact of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing across the UK has been substantial. More than half of adults and over two thirds of young people surveyed by Mind during lockdown periods have reported that their mental health has worsened [i] while more than one in four young people have said they are unable said they had felt unable to cope with life since the start of the pandemic.[ii]

The mental health charity has made information and resources available here ahead of the awareness week, which runs from May 10th to 16th.

MHAW card

The two organisations have been working together over recent months to highlight and advocate for the contribution of sport and physical activity to wellbeing as part of the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Key activities during this period have included: 

  • NEW: The release of a ‘Mental Health and Physical Activity Toolkit’ from Mind. The Toolkit, consisting of 10 guides, aims to help sport, physical activity and mental health providers support and engage people experiencing mental health problems in physical activity. The guides range from ‘Engaging volunteers in a physical activity and mental health service’ (No 6) to ‘Safeguarding and mental health’ (No 9) and ‘Funding and sustainability’ (No 10). Access the guides here. 
  • A series of podcasts dedicated to the theme. The second theme was released recently and features Mind's 'Get Set to Go' programme, which is delivered in conjunction with the EFL Trust and Sport England, and the 'Get on Track for Wellbeing' programme from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. If you would like your programme to be considered for the third podcast, due to be distributed at the end of May 2021, please contact [email protected].
  • A joint call for case studies, learning and evidence on the contribution of sport and physical activity to mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic and recovery period. This will contribute to a comprehensive report and policy brief being prepared for policy-makers and sector leaders.
  • A series of roundtables with key stakeholders from both the mental health and sports sectors. The first of these will take place on Wednesday 26th May. 

Hayley Jarvis, Head of Physical Activity for Mind, was the special guest in the first podcast which you can listen to here.  

Hayley welcomed the policy briefing and round-table, which she feels can play a vital role in the “system change” required around mental health and physical activity’s contribution to it.

“We believe there should be a cross-governmental plan for mental health, and that sport and physical activity should be a core part of that,” she said. “It is a vehicle for achieving those wider mental health outcomes, whether it's participation, volunteering and coaching, or spectating.”

Hayley added: “I really think we're moving into really exciting territory around how we can really influence. We've got the evidence. Now's the time to create that system change and I'm very excited about that.” 

This report from Sport England provides multiple sources of reference underscoring the evidence of sport and physical activity in maintaining and improving mental wellbeing – including the alleviation of stress or PTSD. The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine UK reports that the Royal College of Psychiatrists recognise “exercise prescription as a treatment modality for a wide range of mental health conditions”. Nonetheless it warns there is still “a stigma that surrounds people suffering with mental health conditions, which can act as a barrier to physical activity and participation in sport”. 

The ‘Coalition Tackles’ series of webcasts and podcasts are part of the over-arching ‘Adapt, Support, Respond’ initiative which aims to support, evidence and advocate for sport and physical activity’s contribution to the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The next theme is ‘Sport’s respond to the Unemployment Emergency’ which is set to commence with a webinar on Wednesday 9th June (1600).