As part of our ongoing dedication to facilitating a positive mental health environment, UK Sport has committed to supporting the English Institute of Sport to train 300 Mental Health Champions.
The Mental Health Champions programme was initiated in March and is a combination of training and ongoing support aimed at those individuals in the high-performance community who are often among the first points of contact about mental health.
It is an innovative approach to enhancing awareness and understanding of mental health in elite sport and involves the creation of formal and informal networks of Champions both within and across World Class Programmes.
Leading Olympic and Paralympic sports are participating in the Mental Health Champions programme to become informed about mental health and better supported in their work in this area and it will have a role to play in how mental health is supported at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The programme will expand in the Paris cycle.
To mark World Mental Health Day, UK Sport is bringing insight from Calum Arthur, who works for UK Sport as a Culture Development Advisor and is a Mental Health Champion.
How did you become a Champion and why did you get involved?
I wanted to get involved with the Mental Health Champions training because mental health is an area that I feel passionate about, that is, I wanted to be better at supporting our own mental health and that of others.
I guess for me on some levels it is simply about caring for self and others, and exploring and overcoming the barriers to this. I was particularly interested in why I sometimes feel uncomfortable or was a little fearful of really talking about mental health in some contexts. I wanted to understand where that fear came from and how to overcome it.
What does your role as a Champion entail?
To me it is really about keeping the conversation alive (it’s good to talk… and listen), role modelling self-care, and demonstrating that I care for others.
What is the best thing about being a Champion?
It’s such a positive thing being able to support and help others, and of course an opportunity to learn more about myself so that I can be in a better place to support others.
What did the training involve – how long did it take and what did you learn?
In terms of the training format there was a mixture of: experts sharing some knowledge; observing experts in role play scenarios; peer sharing and learning; and practical elements where we practiced skills and received feedback.
Overall, this helped me to develop my knowledge and skills that ultimately enhanced my confidence to engage in a helpful way with mental health.
And is there an element of ongoing training or reflective practice sessions
Yes, a real positive aspect of the mental health training is the ongoing interaction with the professionals and our peers. For example, there are reflection sessions scheduled post training that are run by a clinical psychologist which are super useful for ongoing development and understanding.
There are over 100 trained Mental Health Champions so far and UK Sport and the EIS are committed to training 300 as part of the latest culture findings – why are these so important?
The more people that are having conversations about your mental health, understanding themselves better, and are better equipped to help others can only be a good thing.
October 10 is World Mental Health Day. How important is it to talk about mental health and keep the conversation and awareness raising going?
I think the importance of keeping the conversation alive cannot be underestimated, life can be challenging, and we all need a little bit support at times and talking about things can be really helpful. We all have mental health and it is important that we look out for ourselves and each other.
What advice would you give to anyone who would like to become a Mental Health Champion?
Just do it!
Find out more on how UK Sport and the EIS are working to deliver a positive mental health environment across Olympic and Paralympic sport here.