Club Matters has created this webpage to explore what is meant by the term ‘mental health’, the benefits of considering mental wellbeing across your organisation and how you can create positive experiences to support people mental health.

This webpage also shares some of the key insight and top tips from our ‘Supporting mental wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic’ guide – make sure you check it out for further guidance and advice.

Understanding mental health

Around 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health problems in any given year, according to research (McManus et al. 2009). This can range from anxiety or depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a state of wellbeing in which people can:

  • Realise their own abilities.
  • Cope with normal life stresses.
  • Work productively.
  • Contribute to their community (Source: WHO 2018).

Mental health problems can affect people in different ways, including how they think and feel, and can have a range of complex, sometimes interrelated causes. MIND have more information on some of the most common causes on their website. Someone’s background or life circumstances, including their age, race, gender identity, disability or long-term health condition, can also affect their likelihood of developing mental health problems.

Like physical health, our mental health can be positively impacted by being part of a sports club, group or organisation. Grassroots sport organisations are often vibrant, welcoming environments, offering opportunities to socialise, learn and develop skills, whilst taking an active interest in the wellbeing of their people. Mind recognises sport and physical activity as one of the methods people can use to help them manage and treat their mental health problems.

Mental wellbeing within your organisation

Integrating mental wellbeing into your offer can benefit your organisation, as well as its people. These might include:

  • Supporting your participants’ and volunteers’ wellbeing, improving their overall experience.
  • Forming new relationships with relevant local organisations, who could also support referral pathways.
  • Engaging with new audiences, including people who might otherwise have felt uncomfortable about getting involved.
  • Supporting internal objectives such as diversifying your offer and boosting your reputation.
  • Supporting local and national strategic outcomes for mental health.
  • Offering volunteers new opportunities to develop skills and pursue qualifications.

MIND’s resource, Delivering a sport and physical activity service: A toolkit for mental health providers, has detailed guides on creating a mental wellbeing programme linked to sport and activity. Much of the insight and information might be useful to your organisation. We have included an overview of some key points from the toolkit around the participant experience below.

There are lots of ways your organisation can offer a positive experience that meets the needs of different people and their mental health and wellbeing. These might include:

  • Making sure sessions have a welcoming, non-judgemental atmosphere.
  • Providing information about the sessions, their format and what people might need in advance.
  • Ensuring activities are fun, achievable and sociable.
  • Gathering feedback from people on a regular basis, to ensure you continue meeting their needs.
  • Checking in with people that haven’t attended for a while to let them know they’re still welcome and explore any support needs.

However, it’s important to be aware of the reasons why people with mental health problems might not get involved in sport and activity. These include:

  • Physical reasons, like the effects of any medication they take.
  • Technical considerations like not knowing the rules or being worried that people around them won’t understand their needs.
  • Psychological barriers, such as feeling anxious about getting involved with something new.

Taking time to talk to individuals, as well as creating relationships with relevant local organisations who can provide insight, will help you to make sure your offer feels welcoming and appropriate for as many people as possible.

Engaging people in conversations about their mental health and wellbeing can help your organisation understand how best to support them. When dealt with sensitively and openly, your organisation can create an environment where people feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and feelings. When approaching a conversation with someone about their mental health and wellbeing, consider the following points.

  • Environment. Find an appropriate space where the other person feels comfortable and you won’t be disturbed.
  • Listen. Focus on being a friendly ear. Encourage the other person to talk about their thoughts and feelings and really listen, rather looking at next steps or actions.
  • Language. Avoid clichés like “pull yourself together”. Instead, reflect the language the other person is using to explain how they are feeling and avoid closed questions.
  • Reassure. Reassure them that just having the first conversation it is a positive step, and that your organisation is committed to providing whatever support it can.
  • Signpost. Where appropriate, signpost them to resources or other organisations that can help, or discuss your organisation’s referral pathway if you have one. Agree any next steps, even if this is just arranging another conversation in the coming days.

Simply asking “How you are feeling?” often doesn’t prompt an honest response. Time to Change’s # AskTwice campaign shows that asking for a second time or asking someone how they “are really feeling?” can helpful or using a scale such as 1-10 asking people to rate where they are and why.

Club Matters teamed up with Mind to develop some top tips to help you support people’s mental wellbeing as they return to sport and activity following the pandemic. For more information on each of these, check out our full guide here.

1.    Reflect on your own mental health and wellbeing and how it’s been affected by the pandemic.

2.    Talk to your people about how they’re feeling.

3.    Communicate regularly.

4.    Have a remote offer to keep people engaged.

5.    Support people to return.

6.    Be flexible.

7.    Reduce the risk of volunteer burn-out and fatigue.

8.    Create an adaptive and supportive atmosphere.

9.    Promote mental health awareness across your organisation.

10.  Make adjustments for people where appropriate.

11.  Regularly monitor how your people are feeling.

It is not your role to diagnose people or to provide therapy, but rather to listen and support people to find solutions and seek support themselves. Other points of support can include:

  • Local GP – GPs have general knowledge in the area and can be a route to specialist support.
  • The Hub of Hope – a database of grassroots and national mental health services.
  • Employee Assistance Programme – some employers offer mental health support.
  • Mind – the mental health charity has lots of resources and guidance. People can also get in touch with the Mind Infoline, which can help them find specialist services in their area, by ringing 0300 123 3393 (open Monday-Friday from 9am-6pm except bank holidays).
  • Side by Side – Mind’s online community where people can share, listen and be heard.
  • Shout – immediate support is available from a trained and supervised volunteer. This is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, all year round, by texting SHOUT to 85258.
  • The Mix – provide support for under-25s including telephone counselling services, one-to-one chat and crisis messaging services.
  • Samaritans – the Samaritans are a free phone service available 24 hours a day, all year round, on 116 123. They also offer a self-help app

Mind has a helpful toolkit on delivering sport and activity for people with mental health problems. With information and advice relevant to clubs, groups and organisations, the resource covers the 5 below areas:

  • Understanding mental health.
  • How incorporating mental health outcomes will benefit your organisation.
  • Key stakeholders in the mental health sector.
  • Mental health sector terminology.
  • Mental health problems and the law.

Last modified: Thursday, 16 December 2021, 2:50 PM