Charity pilots show life-changing impact of physical activity on mental health

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Launch of evaluation findings and new football partnership at Dens Park

Mental health charity SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) will today unveil the positive results of an independent evaluation of its Get Active Community Engagement Pilot Project.

Get Active helps people to improve their mental health through physical activity and sport and was launched in 2009 by SAMH’s Ambassador Sir Chris Hoy, who is currently competing at the London Olympics.

Launch of evaluation findings and new football partnership at Dens Park

Mental health charity SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) will today unveil the positive results of an independent evaluation of its Get Active Community Engagement Pilot Project.

Get Active helps people to improve their mental health through physical activity and sport and was launched in 2009 by SAMH’s Ambassador Sir Chris Hoy, who is currently competing at the London Olympics.

The pilot projects, funded mainly by LTCAS (Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland) and Comic Relief, were set up based on evidence suggesting that physical activity can improve mental health.

Delivered in partnership with nine organisations across the country, over 600 people participated in the activities, which ranged from football and tennis to walking and gardening.  The majority of those involved had personally experienced a mental health problem.

The evaluation of these projects demonstrates their life-changing effect on participants’ mental health and wellbeing:

• Ninety-one per cent of those involved said that taking part made them feel happier
• Eighty-one per cent said they had increased confidence.
• Eighty-seven per cent said they had learned new skills
• Eighty-two per cent reported that the projects had helped them to be more active in their daily lives.

Looking to the future, the event will also celebrate the launch of a new partnership between SAMH, the PFA Scotland (Professional Footballers Association) and ‘see me’, Scotland’s national campaign to end stigma and discrimination of mental ill-health.

The organisations have teamed up to provide players with information about mental health and to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health within the football community.

The launch event at Dens Park, the home of newly promoted SPL team Dundee, will include presentations from participants and from organisations involved in the pilots, including the Forestry Commission. In addition to this there will be a penalty shootout with a Dundee FC player alongside Robert Hare (Get Active service user), Jack Ross of the PFA and Stuart Lovell of the PFA (former player at Livingston and Hibs).

Ian Crawford, SAMH’s Get Active Programme Manager, said

“Participants got involved in the Get Active pilots for a variety of reasons, from improving fitness to getting out of the house. Many of those involved were surprised and inspired by the level of impact their involvement had on their physical health, and how much they benefited in terms of their mental health, confidence and outlook on life. We are delighted by the results and are looking forward to the next phase.”

Robert Hare, who took part in a Get Active football project run with Street Soccer Scotland, said,

“When I went to prison, I lost my home, my girlfriend and my job. I believed I had hit rock bottom and I had no one to blame but myself. Street Soccer Scotland and SAMH have helped me to turn my life around again. I don’t know where I’d be in life if I hadn’t found this help.”

Suzie Vestri, Campaign Director of ‘see me’, welcomed the commitment of PFA Scotland to work with ‘see me’ and added:

“It’s important to remember that one in four Scots will be affected by mental health problems at some point in their lives.  It can happen to sports stars, family members or friends.  For those experiencing mental ill-health, the support we provide to each other will make all the difference.”

Jack Ross, Communications Manager at PFA Scotland said,

“Professional footballers can be under constant public and media scrutiny which alongside the high demands and pressures placed on them can affect their mental wellbeing.  We want to highlight the importance of good mental health for our players’ performance and, by working with ‘see me’ and SAMH, provide them with key information about mental health problems.”

The launch of the Get Active Evaluation Community Engagement Pilot Project Evaluation will take place at Dundee Football Club Stadium, Dens Park, from 10.00 – 13.00 on Tuesday 31st July 2012.