Mental health for sports and physical activity providers

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UK Coaching is a proud signatory of the Sport and Recreational Alliance (SRA) Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation.

SRA Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation

We have made a commitment to the coaching industry to promote positive mental health by advocating the mental health benefits of taking part in sport and being a volunteer, as well as supporting coaches by promoting learning specifically designed to remove stigma and barriers for people who take part in sport and physical activity.

MINDWe were delighted to be asked by MIND to support the development of their Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity (MHASPA) training, aimed at supporting those who deliver sport and physical activity sessions to better understand mental health.

UK Coaching SummitThe UK Coaching Summit is our annual industry event and attracts professionals and organisation from across the coaching sector to share practice and learn from one another.

The 2017 UK Coaching Summit was hosted in County Down, Northern Ireland, and was themed around ‘Extending Our Reach’.

UK Coaching was proud to present, alongside MIND, the MHASPA training to industry leaders and professionals at the Summit, as well as premiering the animation ‘Promoting Good Mental Health through Coaching’.

Promoting Good Mental Health through CoachingThe aformentioned animation and supplement infographic, was developed as part of our ongoing advocacy for raising awareness of mental health and more importantly the role that coaching can play in supporting participants to maintain good mental health.

For this project, UK Coaching worked with Public Health England and MIND to ensure that the messaging and content was the very best and mirrored the aspirations of both organisations in making a positive impact.

The animation has been recommended for use by PHE in order to raise awareness across the health industry and with the partners they engage with via the Physical Activity Clinical Champions programme. This forms part of the strategy for wider health outcomes, including mental health as described in Everybody Active, Every Day.

PHE GraphicThroughout all of our work we look to advocate positive and clear mental health messaging for coaches. We do this by creating bite sized learning, whether it be animations, infographics, case studies, or through discussions on our online community ‘Connected Coaches’, and articles in our membership magazine ‘Coaching Edge’.

Coaching Edge 46Coaching Edge recently featured an article on ‘5 ways to well-being’, highlighting the benefits of volunteering to coaches; building positive relationships and learning new things are all part of the coaching journey. Not only does UK Coaching support the coaching industry to be more positive about mental health, but we also support our own staff by being a Mindful employer. Our work here includes listening to staff through Staff Voice - an internal group that manages staff worries and concerns, and by taking part in initiatives like MIND and England Athletics' #17minutesforme campaign.

UK Coaching is proud to champion the importance of raising mental health awareness and will continue to support our partners by living the values of the SRA Mental Health Charter for Sport and Physical Activity.

Promoting Good Mental Health through Coaching - animation and infographics

Working in partnership with Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity and with support from Public Health England (PHE), we're pleased to release: the 'Promoting Good Mental Health through Coaching' animation and infographics.

The above short will help coaches better understand what mental health is; the barriers faced by those living with or recovering from a mental health problem; and the CARE acronym - a useful tool for coaches when promoting good mental health through their coaching. The narrator is Professor Kevin Fenton, Director for Health and Wellbeing at London Borough of Southwark and National Senior Adviser at Public Health England.

Our Promoting Good Mental Health through Coaching infographics condense information from the animation into easy to remember key points. You can download 'Part 1' and 'Part 2' now.

Promoting Good Mental Health through Coaching (Part 1)

'Promoting Good Mental Health through Coaching' infographic (Part 2)

Our participation animation and infographic series address and identify areas of interest for coaches to ensure that they meet the needs of their participants - particularly those new to activity.

The information below is provided by MIND to raise awareness of Mental Health with their own stakeholders.

What is mental health?

Like physical health we all have mental health too. Just as our bodies can become unwell, so can our minds. As with our physical health, having a mental health problem can affect us all regardless of any age, race, religion or income.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.


  • One in four adults in the UK will experience a mental health problem in each year
  • Of the approx. 14 million people who experience mental health problems in a given year in England, less than two million are in contact with specialist mental health services
  • One in three visits to the GP are mental health related
  • On average, in the UK, 17 people take their own lives each day
  • One in six British workers are affected by conditions like anxiety, depression and stress every year

Common mental health problems

Mental health problems can affect the way you think, feel and behave. In England, in any one year, diagnosable mental health problems affect one in four adults and one in ten young people.

Common mental health problems include depression and anxiety, while less common problems include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

A mental health problem can feel just as bad, or worse, as any other physical illness – only you cannot see it.

There is still stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health problems, as well as many myths about what different diagnoses mean.

There are also a lot of different ideas about the way mental health problems are diagnosed, what causes them and which treatments are most effective.

However, despite these challenges, it is possible to recover from a mental health problem and live a productive and fulfilling life.

It’s important to remember that having a mental health problem is not a sign of weakness.

Mind has a series of information booklets available for free online which provide further details about mental health problems including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and support:

Further information is available at

Benefits of physical activity on mental health

Lots of people don't get enough exercise to stay healthy, but for people with mental health problems physical activity may be even more significant because they are more likely to:

  • have a poor diet due to neglecting self-care
  • smoke or drink too much alcohol as a coping strategy
  • be overweight or obese (this can be a side effect of taking medication)

The benefits of exercise

How mental health impacts on physical conditions

Having a mental health problem can increase the risk of developing serious physical health problems when compared to the wider population. People with mental health problems are:

  • twice as likely to die from heart disease
  • four times as likely to die from respiratory disease
  • on average, likely to die between 10 and 17 years earlier than the general population, if we have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder 

Having a long-term physical health condition can also increase the risk of developing a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression. For some people, the impact on their mental health can become more of a problem than the physical condition itself.

Exercise programmes and other treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness have been shown to improve anxiety and depression, and quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.

Mental Health benefits of being active

  • Reduced anxiety and happier moods. When exercising, brain chemistry changes through the release of endorphins (sometimes called ‘feel good’ hormones), which can calm anxiety and lift mood.
  • Reduced feelings of stress.
  • Clearer thinking.
  • A greater sense of calm.
  • Increased self-esteem.
  • Reduced risk of depression.


Exercise as a treatment for depression

For people who have a diagnosis of mild to moderate depression, their GP might suggest doing some exercise to help lift their mood. This is because regular exercise can be more effective at treating mild to moderate depression than taking antidepressants. A GP might even give a prescription for exercise, and make a referral to a specific programme at a local gym or health centre.

More information is available at

Barriers to participation in physical activity

People with mental health problems face the same barriers as everyone else in getting more active, but for many people their mental health and the associated stigma exacerbates or magnifies these barriers.

However there are a small number of barriers that are very specific to having a mental health problem, these include:

  • The effects of medication, that can cause weight gain, difficulties in regulating temperature or increased sweating.
  • Tiredness or lethargy due to medication, anxious thoughts or difficultly sleeping.
  • Increases or decreases in appetite, which may affect energy levels
  • Negative body image issues, which could be due to weight or scars from self-harm.
  • Anxiety in new situations or surroundings.
  • Fear of judgement or being the focus of attention.
  • The need for structured routine – sports sessions may not fit into an individual’s schedule.

Further information about the effects of medication and the barriers to getting started are available in Mind’s Physical activity, sport and mental health information booklet.

Delivering inclusive sessions

All coaches and instructors can make simple adaptations to their sessions to make them more inclusive to people with mental health problems.

  • Considering the language and terminology used through marketing materials and during the sessions themselves. See here for further guidance.
  • Get to know your participants and their individual needs. Do not make assumptions about what support they require.
  • Get back to basics and ensure a good customer experience is provided from start to finish. This will help to make your sessions inclusive for everyone from offering time pre and post session to talk to you, following up after the sessions and seeking feedback to ensure your sessions are fun and accessible to everyone.
  • Gain inspiration from people who are already getting active for their mental health, visit Mind’s physical activity microsite.
  • Break down the stigma by starting conversations about mental health. Time to Change is a campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. Access practical tips, resources and information at
  • Sign up to the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation – sports organisations are encouraged to sign up to the charter and agree to deliver an action plan to ensure that you promote the mental health of staff, coaches, volunteers and participants.  The Charter steering group including Mind provide ongoing support to signatories.

Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity training is available specifically for coaches who would like to gain further knowledge of mental health in a sport and physical activity setting. Developed by Mind with support of sports coach UK and Sport England further information is available at Other training is available from Mind and other providers including Mental Health Awareness, Mental Health First Aid and Managing Mental Health in the Workplace.

Watch this space! In summer 2017 Mind will be launching a toolkit with resources and templates to support sport and physical activity providers to deliver inclusive sessions.

Supporting someone experiencing poor mental health

If you think someone is struggling with their mental health:

  • Discreetly ask if they need any support and ask what they find helpful.
  • Everyone experiences poor mental health in their own way so don’t make assumptions about how they’re feeling.
  • Also ask if they have seen their GP or another health professional, or encourage them to contact their local Mind or another mental health organisation.

If someone discloses that they are self-harming or is feeling suicidal:

  • Stay calm and ask if they want to talk about it. The most important thing you can do is talk to them about how they feel.
  • Encourage them to get help.
  • Ask them how you can help.
  • Help them to stay safe – if someone is feeling suicidal and talks to you about intending to end their own life, stay with them. Remove anything that could cause harm.
  • Help them think about positive things.

Support you can signpost to:

  • The first step would usually be a visit to their GP, however this can be a difficult step and the individual may need support with this.
  • Our free online community Elefriends ( is a safe supportive space – or in an emergency the Samaritans (tel: 166 123).
  • If you are concerned that an individual is at risk of harming themselves or others and when asked has made plans to do so then seek urgent help from 999.

It’s important to remember that you are not expected to be a mental health expert and the best thing you can do is to listen and reassure someone and signpost the individual to organisations that can provide the appropriate level of support.

Find out more

Read our information guide: Supporting someone else.

Further support available

Support available from Mind includes:

Mind Infoline (tel: 0300 123 3393), which is open between 9.00am to 6.00pm each week day.

Mind website:

Elefriends is a supportive online community where you can be yourself. We all know what it’s like to struggle sometimes, but now there’s a safe place to listen, share and be heard. Elefriends is open to everyone aged 18 and above.

Your local Mind – there are over 140 local Minds delivering mental health services in England and Wales. Each local Mind is an independent charity. We work together in partnership to deliver excellent mental health services to anyone who needs them. To find your local Mind click here.

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