May 14, 2015, by Lee Chrimes

Mental Health recognised as a priority for higher education sport with the launch of a new training programme

From Summer 2015, higher education institutions will have access to a new training programme which aims to increase the knowledge, confidence and skills of the HE sports community in the area of mental health and wellbeing. Student Minds (the UK’s student mental health charity), BUCS – British Universities & Colleges Sport, (the governing body for university sport in the UK), and Sport in Mind (the independent mental health sports charity) have come together to develop the programme, following wide consultation with sports development staff, focus groups and pilot workshops with students at the universities of Oxford, Nottingham and Southampton.

The project will involve the development of a guidance and policy pack for the sector and the launch of a mental health training programme tailored to the roles of staff working in university sport. As well as building their own understanding and skills, this programme will also equip HE sports staff with everything then need to deliver and cascade out a new interactive mental health training module to their own university clubs and sports teams. The student – facing training module, which institutions will be able to slot into existing training structures, has already been successfully piloted with the support of the project’s university and SU partners, the University of Nottingham Students’ Union and the University of Southampton Students’ Union.

About the project launch, Rosie Tressler, Networks and Projects Manager at Student Minds, said:

“We’re really excited to be working with partners specialising in HE sport to target our messages around how students can look after their own mental health and support their friends to this specific audience and sports context. University sport staff and fellow team mates can be the first to pick up on the signs that a student may be struggling and can be key to creating a positive and supportive club culture. This project will build capacity within institutions and SU’s to respond to the challenges and the opportunities in an appropriate, integrated and sustainable way, whilst also celebrating the positive impact that sport can have on student mental health.”

Sport in Mind’s founder, Neil Harris, said:

“Sport in Mind specialises in delivering supported sports projects to help aid the recovery of people experiencing mental health problems. However, we are passionate about raising awareness of mental health problems and the impact regular engagement in sport can have on our health and wellbeing. Our charity is pleased to be able to support this fantastic project and make a real difference to the lives of students across the UK.”

In terms of what this means for the HE Sports sector, Heather Smith, Sports Development Coordinator at BUCS commented:

“BUCS is delighted to be working with two fantastic organisations in Sport in Mind and Student Minds on this project. Both charities have a deep knowledge of the challenges surrounding mental health as well as experience of practical delivery for students both within university and community settings. The development of a resource and training is a huge step forwards in both recognising the power of sport in student wellbeing and in creating a sporting environment that is supportive and welcoming for all students.”

Chloe Averill, Equal Opportunities & Welfare Officer at The University Nottingham and a member of the stakeholder group, who has been working to get more sports students talking about mental health added:

“It has been amazing working with these organisations to help develop training that will benefit both staff and students by increasing their knowledge of mental health. Myself and our Sports Officer, Kiri, wanted to start a campaign to identify and reduce the barriers to sport, get students talking about mental health and increase their knowledge and confidence in the area. Our involvement with Student Minds and BUCS has enabled our campaign to go from strength to strength. We are incredibly excited that our staff and students will be given training that will benefit both those who are already involved in sport and those who are eager to join.”

University staff can register their interest in the programme by signing up here.

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