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By Guest | 11 May 2022 | TAGS:

In collaboration with Sport for Development Coalition, Mind produced the Moving for Mental Health Report which outlined key recommendations for volunteering and volunteers. The report highlights the key role volunteers and coaches play in supporting the mental health of our communities.

The report recommendations include:

  1. To develop better relationships and encouraging cross-sector working, dedicated funding should be provided to support the development of local hubs which bring together primary, secondary care services with Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations to support mental health through movement - use the local support tab above and connect with your local voluntary sector organisation to find the offer in your local area.
  2. Sport and physical activity organisations should promote and make available mental health training and resources for coaches and volunteers as part of minimum coaching standards, to support their own mental health and to support wider duty of care practices.

From the report, we have learned that social support from a trusted source is known to play an important role within community-based group's physical activity programmes, in helping people to initiate activity through physical presence and emotional support, which is why its important to recognise and value the role volunteers play in doing this day to day.

Peer-led programmes and programmes involving peer-support, have shown promise for yielding improvements for mental health, exercise related psychosocial benefits, knowledge relating to self-care, social identity and social connections, as well as persistence to, and re-engagement of physical activity. Peer support, and the role of the expert by lived experience, warrants greater focus as the effectiveness of, and context in which peer support programmes can better promote physical activity for people with mental health problems is not well understood - this raises questions surrounding the capability of the existing volunteer and professional workforce to do this effectively with recent active lives data identifying key gaps in representation within the volunteer workforce.

Jenny Betteridge, Strategic lead for volunteering, Sport England, highlighted this in her recent blog following the release of this years Active Live's data. 'The latest Active Lives (Nov 20-21) data poses a challenge; the biggest falls came from those people who volunteer less frequently – e.g. monthly, a few times a year or just as a one-off, while regular weekly volunteering held up better. But this, less frequent, volunteering is no less important to helping activity take place and accounts for 70% of all volunteers. So, the fall of 1.7% for those who volunteer once/ad hoc compared to 0.7% for weekly volunteers, will have a considerable impact. This has disproportionately impacted those from already under-represented groups within sport and activity volunteering, who tended to give their time in this less frequent way, such as women and people with a disability or long-term health condition.'

In response to the public mental health challenge, there is an increased policy expectation that sports coaches could, and should, play a role in supporting the mental health of children, young people and adults in many countries. In light of current government sport policy, Sport England, Mind, and UK Coaching, for example, have identified the importance of coaches’ roles in supporting the mental health of others and of their own mental health, and have developed the sector specific Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity+ training programme to support coaches.

The #21by21 campaign, led by the Sport for Development Coalition, also provided mental health training to 41,614 coaches and volunteers (25,493 completed the training virtually) who felt that the training improved their confidence and skills to support the mental health of community sport participants. In light of this, it is still recognised that the majority of coaches, despite coaches wanting to support mental health, report being underprepared, lack sufficient confidence and skills to act, and require additional training to support the mental health participants - especially children who are often more likely to confide informally in a coach. As a result, there is an urgent need to develop and implement holistic evidence-based, context-specific mental health literacy programmes for coaches which are accessible, practical, and proportionate to the mental health needs of participants, and which support coaches’ own mental health.

The provision of such training has been advocated as a potentially effective way of:

  • Starting conversations about mental health and reducing the stigma associated with it.
  • Improving knowledge of the prevalence of mental health problems.
  • Signposting to relevant professional mental health support services.
  • Promoting an understanding of mental health as part of overall wellbeing.

Alongside participant mental health, sports clubs, and coach and volunteer involving organisations should focus on supporting mental health at all levels. Developing positive management and leadership cultures in relation to mental health and embedding mental health considerations in all policies and practices are important to normalise conversations around mental health in community and club spaces.

Sport and physical activity providers should ensure mental health training (i.e., eLearning developed by UK Coaching, Mind and 1st4sport) and resources (e.g. Mental Health and Physical Activity Toolkit and UK Coaching Duty to Care Toolkit and Digital Badge) is made essential for coaches and volunteers, with mental health holding parity of esteem with safeguarding training and is made available to all those who support individual’s mental health.

To read the full report download the attached document or click here: https://www.sportfordevelopmentcoalition.org/moving-mental-health

Head to our Clubs and Organisations support page under the 'Support for Safeguarding and Mental Health' tab where you will find links to Mind's eLearning and other support and opportunities: https://www.gmmoving.co.uk/commitments/participation/clubs-and-organisations

To read Jenny's views on the recent active lives data release and what it means for volunteering head here: https://www.sportengland.org/blogs/how-future-volunteering-can-build-change

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