England Athletics, supported by Mind the mental health charity, have launched a Mental Health Ambassador programme.
The programme aims to establish a network of volunteer ambassadors in affiliated running clubs and groups across England to support those of us who are experiencing mental health problems. Support includes helping people to start running, get back into running, or continue running as well as to improve the mental wellbeing of their existing members.
The programme links to #runandtalk, an England Athletics campaign to improve mental health through running in England by:
- getting people talking about mental health, sharing their experiences and removing stigma
- raising awareness of mental health problems
- supporting people experiencing mental health problems to be physically active through running start, return to and continue running
We’re often told that physical activity is good for our bodies and our minds, but having a mental health problem can make it difficult to get started, for a number of reasons, ranging from negative body image, or a lack of self-esteem through to practical reasons such as having no one to go with or not knowing where to get started.
Initially 128 ambassadors have been appointed from 91 different England Athletics affiliated clubs and registered groups across England. The ambassadors will be working with their clubs/groups on variety of things including:
- Creating a mental health action plan for their club/group.
- Organising specific events or open evenings.
- Creating links with local mental health services/organisations.
- Sharing information on social media about #runandtalk and other related campaigns.
- Starting conversations about mental health.
- Sharing good news stories.
- Supporting leaders, coaches and other volunteers with relevant guidance on mental health.
- Volunteering through Mind and other organisations to support people experiencing mental health problems to start running.
England Athletics is committed to improving mental wellbeing through running. Our aspiration is to one day have a mental health ambassador in every affiliated club and group in England so that those of us experiencing mental health problems can access the benefits of running in a supported way.
For more information, or to apply to become an ambassador, please visit www.englandathletics.org/mental-health-ambassadors
England Athletics is a signatory of the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation. The Charter sets out how sport can use its collective power to tackle the stigma that surrounds mental health and help people seek support when needed, see more at www.sportandrecreation.org.uk/mental-health-charter.
Hayley Jarvis, Community Programmes Manager (Sport) at Mind said: "We are delighted that England Athletics are taking such proactive measures to support those of us with mental health problems to get physically active through running. Getting started when you have a mental health problem can be really difficult due to concerns around body image, self-confidence and the effects of medication.
"Through our Get Set to Go programme, funded by Sport England and National Lottery we have found that building in social, and fun, activities and providing peer support is crucial for both encouraging and sustaining participation. We encourage more people to take up running and to access the Mental Health Ambassador programme."
Liz Purbrick, National Disability Manager at England Athletics added: "We are really pleased by the response to the launch of the Mental Health Ambassador Programme. It is clearly something that resonates with our running clubs and groups, many of which have been doing some fantastic work to support those of us experiencing mental health problems for a long time already. We have been really humbled hearing and reading the stories about the difficult times that many of our ambassadors have experienced personally or through family or friends but the difference running has, and continues to, make to their lives. We hope the programme can continue to breakdown some of the stigma attached to mental health and support people to access the social, physical and mental wellbeing benefits that running can bring along with the physical and social ones too."
Running is one of the most accessible and low cost ways to be active and meet government recommendations to be moderately active for at least 150 minutes per week. Whether it’s to get fit, improve health, make friends or take on a challenge running has something to offer everyone.
Join the conversation on social media using #runandtalk.