With 137 affiliated Clubs and RunTogether groups already involved in the Mental Health Champions programme, we wanted to share with you what club volunteers have been getting up to in this role and the impact it has had on their club.
Fitmums and Friends are a large affiliated club who have been supporting people’s Mental Health through their groups and programmes for the past 6 years.? Their ‘In the Pink’ program provides one to one support to men and women, using exercise to help manage the often debilitating symptoms caused by social, physical, emotional and health problems.?
This referral program is a fantastic success, however the club were keen to extend the offer of Mental Health support to everyone across all 10 of their groups within Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. They have now appointed 23 Mental Health Champions across the groups as part of the England Athletics #runandtalk programme and are developing an action plan for their club. The plan aims to help support existing members as well as support new people who are experiencing mental health problems to start running.
Deputy Chief Officer, Vickie Hillier said “Having the Mental Health Champions in place provides our members with the opportunity to access physical activity and reap the benefits this brings in the knowledge that if they would like to talk, there is always somebody listening. Our Mental Health Champions are easily identifiable in clubs as they wear T-shirts with an “I’m listening” logo. ?We also include a very simple system of support in all our sessions, such as meeting people at the entrance to the venue to reduce anxiety, and asking about how people are feeling in addition to if they are physically fit to take part in a run/walk. We also offer “try a mile” events encouraging new people to come along and be supported to run/walk a mile as needed. These events highlight the fact that anybody, of any ability, be supported to become more active. I think the Mental Health Champions are a brilliant addition to any club as anything we can do to promote the benefits of physical activity and social interaction has to be a good thing.”
Luke Primmer who is a Mental Health Champion at Boothferry Fitmums & Friends said “by being a Mental Health Champion I feel confident in being able to approach people and offer my support."
At the other end of the scale Hurricane Striders only affiliated to England Athletics in the early part of 2018 but are already reaping the rewards from having Mental Health Champions in their club.
During #RunandTalk week the club asked members to write down what their motivations were for running and paired them up based on these answers. This promoted them to talk during the run and also broke down potential barriers between runners of different pace. Danielle Chambers, a member at the club states “the evening was a great success with people running together who would not normally and finding out more about each other, which can only help build a more supportive club.”
The club have also utilised the programme to re-engage people who may feel isolated from being injured. Club secretary and Mental Health Champion Kate Siviter states, “Being injured can really cause a low point in relation to someone’s mental health and wellbeing and not being at the club can then cause social isolation which exacerbates the situation. As a club, wanting to take care of the Mental Health and Wellbeing of our members we recognise this and ensure we keep in contact with members who have had to stop running. This might involve meeting them for a coffee outside of club times or picking them up and taking them to volunteer at a parkrun. This helps them to feel part of the club still, stay in touch with friends and hopefully make the transition back to training more comfortable.”
How to join #runandtalk
England Athletics Affiliated Clubs and RunTogether groups can apply to be part of the #runandtalk programme and appoint Mental Health Champions on their behalf. Once appointed Mental Health Champions are provided with guidance and advice to support them in the role along.
Applications will be taken 4 times a year during application windows which will open for a month at a time. Those clubs/groups that apply will be contacted at the end of the month window with further information. The application window for July has now closed. Further application windows will then be open in October 2018 and January 2019. Information will be provided online and in our newsletter 'The Record'.