Mental health leads working in sport

The mental health route map supporting Scotland’s sporting workforce

Since 2020 sportscotland and SAMH have worked together to help partner organisations increase their understanding of mental health and wellbeing.

The sportscotland and SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health) mental health route map has supported all 32 local authorities and 19 Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport (SGBs) with the aim of improving confidence and capacity in this area across sport and physical activity environments across the country.

This initially took the form of a series of learning and development opportunities, in the last four years over 200 sessions have been delivered with over 3500 attendees.

A new phase of support started this year which involved sport development staff taking Mental Health Lead roles in across a range of different organisations coming together to improve understanding across the sporting system, sharing insight experiences and expertise which will improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes and practices in sports and communities across Scotland.

Removing barriers

The goal is to ensure that mental health and wellbeing is not a barrier to engaging, participating, working and achieving in physical activity and sport. A series of support sessions have also been launched for line managers within partners organisations focusing on mental health in the workplace.

Training has been provided on areas such as suicide prevention, managing anxiety, how to have a mental health conversation and mental health awareness in general - meaning SGBs and local authorities are well placed to provide open and welcoming environments for employees and participants in sport alike. 

Impacts have included:
•    Increased knowledge of mental health problems and strategies to support them
•    Promoting talking amongst young men and women within schools and clubs 
•    Considerations on how make sports clubs more inclusive to people with mental health problems
•    Supporting coaches with how they communicate with participants who may have mental health problems
•    Encouraging teams to speak about mental health

Robert Nesbitt, Head of Physical Activity and Sport at SAMH, said: “We have received a terrific response to our mental health route map over the past four years, and we are delighted to continue to work with sportscotland to deliver further support to partner organisations.

"Every member of staff, club and organisation engaging in our training or using our resources is helping to tackle stigma and remove barriers to participation, ensuring everyone can enjoy the mental health benefits of being active.”


Shirley-Anne Smith, Senior Active Schools and Community Sport Coordinator (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) for West Lothian Council, said: “Mental wellbeing is part of the holistic approach that we need to take within sport. Our community sport hubs are a great way to integrate third sector partners. So we can use sport as the hook to engage with people, which then allows us to have those different conversations.

“Having a charter that allowed us to build a plan really gave us the direction we needed.

"We want to show that we have taken the time, we have understood and we are brave enough to have those conversations before we go into schools and clubs and try to encourage them to do the same.

“The mental health aspect for us is now just the same as disclosures, first aid training and child protection. Any of those things that we do as a matter of course, it’s part of our sport.”

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