Poor Mental Health: we are all concerned
Ways to recognise and deal with poor mental health are increasingly being highlighted in the media, making it the focus of many national and local initiatives in the UK to help tackle its consequences. According to statistics published on the Mental Health Foundation website, 4 to 10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime, some with tragic consequences such as suicide. We are all at risk to have poor mental health at some point in our life, from childhood to our older age, whatever our activity at home, at school or at work.
A Factsheet from Mental Health Network, published in 2017, highlights that deteriorating mental health has a direct negative impact on physical health, with people with a mental illness almost twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease as the general population, four times more likely to die from respiratory disease and are at a higher risk of being overweight or obese.
Restoring and maintaining your mental health
Whilst medication is reported as the most common type of treatment for mental health problems, there is a body of evidence that demonstrates that undertaking some form of exercise, together with other activities, will greatly help with instilling a feeling of wellbeing and maintain good mental health
Exercise is medicine for better mental health at Bristol University
On Mental Health Day (10th October), we spent some time talking to Peter Burrows, Physical Activity & Health Development Officer (pictured below) at Bristol University.
Bristol University like many other Higher Education institutions has sadly seen a rise in the number of suspected suicides among its student population. While trying to understand the reasons behind these untimely deaths, the University has taken a number of active steps to address poor mental health of students, one of which is introducing the Healthy Minds Scheme.
Bristol University: Healthy Minds Scheme
The Healthy Minds Scheme is run by the Division of Sport Exercise and Health and is a pioneering approach to user-led physical activity that seeks to positively impact on students experiencing mental health difficulty whilst at University.
Students who approach the Student Counselling Team or the Mental Health Advisory Service showing symptoms of poor mental health are clinically assessed to be accepted on the Scheme. Peter and his team of exercise professionals then work to create an activity plan for them which is based around 3 months of free access to premium membership including the gym, pool, exercise classes and social sport opportunities. They get multiple contact points with their mentor in the gym to progress their routines and are guided towards an exit route that looks to maintain their health behaviour either through the gym or by joining an active club or society.
“Last year I ran the programme entirely by myself and was able to support around 60 students through the scheme”, Peter says. “We have significantly expanded the programme this year to include a programme coordinator and embed the fitness team into the delivery of the project. As such we were looking for appropriate training to support our staff. We sought out the WRIGHT Foundation Level 4 Mental Health course earlier this summer with 5 of us from the University of Bristol attending. It turned out to be the perfect training opportunity to support the project and prepare our staff for working with this specialist population. The course was insightful and in depth and really reinforced the work I’d done previously in designing and implementing the project to support mental health through physical activity“. With the growing and newly qualified team in place, the Healthy Minds Scheme hopes to reach and support upward of 500 students in 2018-19.
Students Beth and Isaac took part in the Scheme. Put the volume on to listen to and watch their stories:
- For Beth’ story, click on https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06pbfbq
(you need to sign in to BBC to watch Beth’ story)
- For Isaac’s story, click on
(you need to login to Facebook to watch Isaac’s story)
Healthy Minds for better mental health: future plans
Peter has ambitious plans to further expand the programme to offer a less intensive model which could make the programme more scalable and even extend the service to staff with a view to to taking a more preventive approach rather than what is currently a curative one.
In 2017, the ukactive Research Institute, in collaboration with Precor and Scottish Student Sport released a key report highlighting the important role physical activity can play in a university student’s life. This year, with the additional collaboration of British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS), the research covered Britain. This report titled ‘The ‘British Active Students Survey’, highlighted the benefits of physical activity on mental health. With this evidence in hand, Bristol University, in conjunction with nine other universities, has now bid for and been approved funding through BUCS and Sport England to continue to expand the scheme and help develop a delivery model that can be adopted by other institutions in the HE sector as the benchmark in physical activity to support mental health.
Lorraine Nicholson, Training Division Director at WRIGHT Foundation CIC, said “It is a great honour to be involved in the running of such a worthwhile Scheme that is reaping benefits for the students and improve their mental health. We look forward to working further with Bristol University, and indeed other universities that are thinking of adopting this model.”
If you want to find out more about the Healthy Minds Scheme at Bristol University, please contact Peter Burrows directly on 0117 928 9000 .
If your organisation wants to host a WRIGHT Foundation Level 4 Mental Health course or have any queries on this and other WRIGHT Foundation courses, please contact us on 01307469055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.