Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has launched a joint report between Sport Northern Ireland and Ulster University’s Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute into the benefits of mental health education to local sports clubs.

‘Mood Matters: Mental Health and Wellbeing in Sport’ reports on the outcomes of a pilot education programme delivered by Sport Northern Ireland in support of the Public Health Agency’s work to raise awareness of mental health issues. The programme was delivered by Sport NI in partnership with mental health charities MindWise and Aware NI, with adult coaches from 25 sports clubs from across five Governing Bodies participating. The ‘Mood Matters’ report findings suggest that those who took part experienced an increase in their knowledge and understanding of mental health. Participants also reported that they would be more likely to offer support to someone with a mental health issue as a result of the training and education provided.

The report was launched by the Minister at Parliament Buildings, together with Sport NI’s Interim CEO Arthur Scott and two of the report’s co-authors Dr Paul Donnelly (Policy, Planning and Research Manager, Sport NI) and Dr Gavin Breslin (Senior Lecturer in Sport & Exercise Psychology, Ulster University). Also in attendance were Aware NI’s Education and Training Manager Andrea Kearns and Chief Executive of MindWise Edward Gorringe, as well as members of Sirocco Works FC and Ards Ladies Hockey Club, two of the local sports clubs who participated in the programme, and Paul Stephenson from the NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit.

The pilot education programme was developed following the formation of a Mental Health and Wellbeing in Sport project board co-chaired by Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín. Launching today’s report, the Minister commented:

“The role of the culture, arts and leisure sector as a vehicle for promoting important health messages, including mental health and wellbeing, is a very strong one. I welcome today’s report and feel it reinforces the role we all have in reducing the stigma associated with having a mental health problem.  We should encourage those who live with mental health issues and those who may be at risk of suicide to seek help or make important health-related lifestyle changes. DCAL is aware of the opportunities that exist through sport to engage the population in positive coping strategies so that they can better deal with difficulties in their lives by developing their resilience through for example positive coaching values.”

Welcoming the publication of the report, Sport NI Interim Chief Executive Arthur Scott stated:

“Sport NI is committed to ensuring that people not only enjoy sport, but that they can also enjoy all the positive benefits associated with a lifelong involvement in sport. Existing research recognises a link between physical activity and improved mental health – the ‘Mood Matters’ report’s findings indicate that sport clubs also provide an effective and welcoming environment for tackling mental health issues. Engaging in awareness raising and training enables sports clubs to not only build people’s knowledge and confidence in supporting others, but can also promote a shared understanding of the issue to help address mental health at a club level.”

“Sport NI would like to thank the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and Public Health Agency for assisting us to fund the pilot programme, and our delivery partners Aware NI and MindWise. Thanks also go to all Governing Bodies and clubs who participated and to Ulster University’s Sport and Exercise Research Institute for co-authoring the report. Sport Northern Ireland is committed to continuing to promote mental health and wellbeing through and within sport along with our partners”.

Ulster University’s Dr Gavin Breslin Chartered Sport Psychologist, who co-authored the report, noted that the findings suggest mental health training within sports clubs can deliver positive attitude and behavioural changes, noting:

“The programme improved mental health literacy, reduced stigma and improved coaches willingness to provide help and support to members of their club if they recognised someone was experiencing a mental health issue. Sport provides a setting in which mental health literacy messages can be promoted. By combining the setting with what we know about the psychology of mental health and behavioural change we can make a real difference. Ulster University has a track record of sport and mental health research expertise and the work that has been completed to date needs to be built upon in order to further promote positive mental health messages to those involved in sport and their families”.

To download a copy of the report please click here.