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Olympian backs sport to improve mental health

This news post is 10 months old

One of Scotland's greatest living athletes supports new campaign

Chris Hoy will today launch (2 August) a ground-breaking four-year partnership between the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and sportscotland.

The aim of the initiative is to help people feel the benefits of exercise to support their mental, social and physical health.

Olympian and SAMH ambassador Sir Chris Hoy is guest of honour at today’s launch, which comes on the eve of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, taking place across Scotland, and just a year ahead of the World Athletics Indoor Championships 2024, which will be hosted in Glasgow.

Hoy, who has supported SAMH since 2009, said: “Being active is a terrific way to help us stay both physically and mentally well. This partnership is about making sure we can all join in with sport and exercise, so everyone has the chance to feel those benefits.

“SAMH and sportscotland are already working together to make a difference, and this new, enhanced partnership aims to have a positive impact on even more people’s lives.”

This latest phase builds on the last three years of successful collaboration between the two organisations, which developed in-depth mental health and wellbeing programmes and upskilled 800 people working in the sporting system, including training over 400 active schools coordinators.

It will see the partnership extend into new areas, such as suicide prevention and joint campaigning work.

Both organisations are founding partners of the club and community arm of Scotland’s Mental Health Charter for Physical Activity and Sport, which encourages organisations from grassroots clubs to elite sporting bodies to ensure there is no barrier for anyone with a mental health problem to engage, participate and achieve in physical activity and sport.

Today’s launch will be held at Huntershill Sports Hub in Bishopbriggs, home to the running and athletics club Springburn Harriers, who were one of the clubs that worked with SAMH and sportscotland to develop the charter.

Shirley-Anne Smith, a Senior Active Schools & Community Sport Coordinator, said: “As a manager, the training SAMH have provided has given me an excellent base and made me more aware of the importance of the mental wellbeing of my staff. It’s also supported us to hold true to the principles of being a person centred, inclusive and collaborative organisation.

“An Active Schools Coordinators recently reached out looking for help for one of their schools-based coaches and I was able to refer them back to the ‘Having Mental Health Conversations’ training and toolkit, which then gave them confidence in opening a conversation and practical ways to best support the coach.

“This partnership helps spread the message of the huge benefits that physical activity can have on an individual’s mental health. Making real and positive intentional changes through sport is so important.”

Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH, said: “We’re delighted to strengthen our partnership with sportscotland and build on our successes of the past three years. This comes at an exciting time for sport in Scotland, and we hope that people up and down the country will be inspired by major sporting events like the UCI Cycling World Championships, this summer and beyond.

Forbes Dunlop, sportscotland CEO, added: “We know from experience and our work in communities across the country, the very positive and often life-changing impact that sport and physical activity can have on the health and wellbeing of those who take part.

“We want as many people as possible to enjoy the benefits of sport and physical activity and our partnership with SAMH is a vital part of this work. By working together with our partners we will break down barriers, challenge stigma and create new participation opportunities.”



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