Being A Mental Health Ambassador
It was in the beginning of this year that England Athletics were seeking individuals – from running clubs and groups – for a new role: Mental Health Ambassador. I put myself forward as I felt that my job as a nurse – where I deal with patients who have underlying mental health issues – would provide me with the experience needed to support and guide club members with their concerns.
This doesn’t mean you have to have a health background for the role, far from it. It’s the awareness of mental health issues, which could come from family, friends, colleagues, or from personal experience that is important. From my personal experience, I can empathise with people who have anxiety issues as this is something I have to cope with.
These are the seven things that the Mental Health Ambassadors can do to fulfill their role:
- Support. Work with other people in your running club or group (such as committee members or group leader) to proactively support the mental wellbeing of club/group members. Provide information about local services that can offer support to participants with needs not related to sport.
- Engage. Make links between your club/group with mental health groups and organisations and encourage their members to start running.
- Tweet. Share with their twitter follower’s England Athletics’ information and #runandtalk and other related campaigns.
- Share. England Athletics Facebook posts and #runandtalk and other related content.
- Talk. Start conversations about mental health with other club or group members.
- Advocate.Share guidance and information provided by England Athletics with elected club/group officials and others about mental health issues relating to running.
- Volunteer. Get involved and actively participate in volunteer opportunities to support people experiencing mental health problems to start running.
The role is voluntary one with lots of support and information provided by Liz Purbrick (National Disability Manager), and fellow ambassadors via a closed members Facebook page.
Since becoming a Mental Health Ambassador, I have done some of the above items including having gentle conversations in the running group, and in the workplace about the benefits of running, especially in a group. The feedback has been positive both physically and mentally. About running, one person stated it ‘calmed their mind,’ and ‘allowed them to think and feel more relaxed.’
From my experience, I’ve found that if people are willing to try something new – whether it’s running or another sport, or some other outlet that allows them time and space for mindfulness – then they can reap the benefits of mental changes that will enable them to cope with their day to day lives.
I chose to come back into running on a regular bases because I wanted to set myself some running goals, which invariably ended up targeting mental goals. Joining Farsley Flyers running club was ideal. In fact, I have achieved more than I thought I would in the year that I have been a member.
Farsley Flyers has two Mental Health Ambassadors: myself (Debbie Coope) and Clare Addy.
To find out how you could become a Mental Health Ambassador for your running club or group, click here: http://runleeds.co.uk/r/england-athletics-mental-health-ambassador/