Sport leaders have used the power of sport to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of thousands of people as a project led by Scottish Sports Futures (SSF) and SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) marks one year in action.
A 20-strong group of wellbeing ambassadors have been raising awareness of mental health by delivering workshops across Scotland over the last year. The group started the initiative with a basketball tournament at Oriam in Edinburgh, which 250 young people took part in.
Since then Basketball Scotland, the NHS, SFN Expo, Active Schools Glasgow and Scottish Disability Sport have all had workshops designed and delivered by the ambassadors which highlight the benefits physical activity can have on mental health and wellbeing.
During the first year the ambassadors have delivered 65 workshops in 16 locations with 1505 young people in total attending and 833 adults, 94% of participants reported they had learned something new on the topic of mental health and wellbeing from the ambassadors
The project was created with £61,205 from the Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity fund.
The joint programme is among 17 projects to benefit from the £1m fund, delivered by the Scottish Government, sportscotland, Spirit of 2012 and The Robertson Trust with the aim of changing lives and creating a more inclusive and healthier nation.
The sessions have produced some very encouraging results in trying to address the stigma and discrimination felt by those with mental health problems. Young people who have visited have spoken of now viewing basketball as a release from everyday stress and noticing a positive impact on their mindset during and after sessions.
Chloe Lawson, a wellbeing ambassador from Glasgow, said: “I think the project has had great results.
"The young people at any of my sessions now understand that it’s a good thing to speak about mental health and wellbeing with each other, and how important it is to challenge any negative stigmas around it.”
Chief executive of sportscotland, Stewart Harris, said: “We see time and again that sport has the power to change lives and being physically active is one of the best things we can do for our physical and mental health.
“At sportscotland, young people are at the heart of what we do. We believe that young people should have a voice in sport, this project is an excellent example of that. The wellbeing ambassadors can be very proud of what they have achieved, their hard work has had a positive impact on others which could stay with them for years to come.
“SSF and SAMH have worked together to show that sport can make a meaningful difference to all our lives."
Kirsty McNab, CEO of SSF, said: “At Scottish Sports Futures, we absolutely believe in the power of sport to change lives. We are proud that this project with SAMH allows our young people the opportunity to work with leading experts in mental health to develop resources, ideas, and tools to talk about mental health.
“Never has mental health and wellbeing been so important or prevalent and I’m so proud of how our wellbeing ambassadors are adapting the content they have created to embrace digital technology, ensuring that they are sharing SAMH advice and also designing online workshops focussed on wellbeing to support young people during this challenging time. We understand that the negative impact of being isolated may hit the vulnerable young people we support the hardest so are working to buffer this."
Robert Nesbitt, Head of Physical Activity and Sport at SAMH said: “The wellbeing ambassadors have continually shown their ability to adapt to new audiences and experiences. Exploring and identifying common themes around mental health and wellbeing for different groups, this has meant that they approach activities focussed on the needs of their audiences.”