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Positive change at Bowls Scotland

Bowls Scotland's commitment to staff and members wellbeing

Bowls Scotland has made the mental health and wellbeing of their staff and their members a priority in recent years. A series of changes has helped build awareness and the skills required to create a more inclusive environment for the sport.

In 2021 Bowls Scotland committed to completing the sportscotland and SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health) mental health route map. The programme aims to improve confidence and capacity in this area across sport and physical activity environments across the country. All 32 local authorities have been involved in the programme along with 19 Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport (SGB), Bowls Scotland were the first SGB to complete it.

The process involved Bowls Scotland’s staff team taking part in 14 hours of training with SAMH. The areas covered included suicide prevention, managing anxiety, how to have a mental health conversation and mental health awareness in general. The staff have shown great commitment to it and have used this knowledge to create new policies, new initiatives and provide further training and opportunities for volunteers and coaches.

Sarah Pryde-Smith, Business Operations Manager for Bowls Scotland, said: “Our journey through the route map was an extremely positive one for us as an organisation and as a staff team.

"It’s given us an excellent grounding to help us maintain our continued commitment to ensuring mental health and wellbeing is a priority.”

“All of our staff engaged in the sessions. They shared experiences that we probably had not given them the platform to do before. The SAMH team were excellent, with some very difficult topics to cover. They allowed time for discussion and reflection, it felt natural, not forced.”

Following the completion of their route map journey, part of Bowls Scotland’s next step was to appoint an Equality, Inclusion and Welfare Manager, with help from some additional sportscotland funding. Part of this role is to provide some leadership in the area of mental health and wellbeing. Roz Asli has been in post for nearly a year, she has introduced a Friday team huddle for staff to get better connected and has an open-door policy for staff to get in touch to chat about any concerns they have in a confidential space.

Bowls Scotland have continued their partnership with SAMH by being a signatory to the charity’s Mental Health Charter for Physical Activity and Sport. Since 2018 the charter has been helping SGBs, other large sports organisations, sports clubs, community groups and many more to remove barriers to participate in sport.

This has provided education and learning for bowls volunteers, coaches, and players as part of the annual club, coach and volunteer development calendar.

Peter Alexander, Bowls Scotland District Co-ordinator, said: “SAMH's recent workshop on mental health and wellbeing to district and district youth coordinators was a timely reminder that mental health is equally as important as physical health and should be discussed just as freely and without judgement.

“Having a close family member with a long-term mental health condition, I know how important it is to talk about how we are feeling, rather than bottling things up. A problem shared is a problem halved, as they say.

“When I shared this information in one of the group discussions, it acted as a catalyst for others to open up and talk about how close members of their families have experienced mental health problems too - which proves the point that mental health problems are more common than we think; they can affect people of all ages and backgrounds; and the more we talk about them, the better we feel.

“Another thing which cropped up in the group discussion was how important it is to monitor our own stress levels and take time out for a bit of a breather when need be. Equally, to look out for members at our own clubs who, unique in the world of sport, feel like an extended family.”

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