Being active can have a positive impact on physical health, but it can really impact mental health too.
It can reduce the risk of depression by up to 30% (i), boost your mood and improve self-esteem. In addition, it can help to reduce stress and help people think more clearly.
Athletics and running clubs can play a vital role in supporting mental health.
People may join your club with good mental health, but overtime experience poor mental health. A primary motivator for someone to joining a club may be to support their mental health.
Good mental health can look like:
- feeling good about yourself
- you can think clearly and be productive
- feeling confident in new situations with new people
- feeling in control of your thoughts and reactions to things
Poor mental health can look like:
- finding it difficult to cope with everyday life
- feeling out of control of your thoughts and feelings
- losing interest in things you used to enjoy
- becoming more isolated
Mental health problems can affect anyone regardless of age, race, religion or income. They affect around one in four people in any given year and can range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
(i) Department of Health PA, Health Improvement and Protection (2011). Start Active, Stay Active: A report on physical activity from the four home countries’
Chief Medical Officers. London: Department of Health.
Talk about mental health. Create a safe environment for club members to talk about their mental health and share their experiences. This helps to reduce any stigma s and encourage people who may be struggling to get help. Appointing Mental Health Champions can help to start conversations and signpost people towards the appropriate support.
Promote self-care. Encourage your members to look after themselves. You may want to do this through appropriate training loads, encouraging rest, goal setting and connection. This is just as important for club volunteers. Try to make sure they don’t take on too much and continue to enjoy their role with the club.
Provide signposting information. Make sure members (including club volunteers) know where to get support if they need it. Provide details of local organisations as well as helplines and listening services.
Get in touch with your local Mind or other organisations. They can often provide mental health expertise, training, guidance and support as well as signpost new members to your club.
Check in with people. A quick email or phone call to a new member before they join for their first session can help provide reassurance.. It can also provide an opportunity for people to identify any additional support that might help them to take part. Similarly, checking in on people who haven’t been for a while or are injured can help make sure they’re ok and keep them connected to the club.
- Do your club volunteers understand mental health and are they happy to talk about it?
Great. Being knowledgeable can help create a great experience for everyone in your clubs. Regular conversations can break down the stigma attached to mental health.
Why not encourage them to take some training or to look at Mind’s Mental Health and Physical Activity toolkit to improve their knowledge and confidence?
- Are you part of the #RunAndTalk programme and do you have Mental Health Champions?
Amazing. Thank you for all you’re doing to improve mental health through running. Make sure all your members know about the #RunAndTalk programme and who your Mental Health Champions are.
Why not join #RunAndTalk and appoint Mental Health Champions? They’ll be able to access support to help improve knowledge about mental health, start conversations and reduce the stigma.
- Does your club have appointed Mental Health First Aiders?
Great. Make sure everyone knows who they are and how to contact them
Consider appointing Mental Health First aiders as you would for physical first aid.
- Do you provide signposting information?
Great. Supporting people to get support from experts if they need it is really important.
Signposting information is easy to share with your members on your website, notice boards and newsletters. See the link below from Mind about suggested services.
- Do you check in on your members and club volunteers?
Brilliant. Checking in provides a supportive club environment for everyone, whether they are experiencing a mental health problem or not.
Checking in can be as simple as sending an email, text or phone call. It could help reassure new members or understand why existing members haven’t come back.