The Sport for Development Coalition has launched a new web portal to support its national campaign to encourage 21,000 sports coaches and volunteers to become trained in mental health awareness by the year 2021.

The announcement follows the release of a new report, which outlines the impact of this training in terms of young people’s wellbeing. The ‘Sport For Better Mental Health’ report, published by national youth charity StreetGames, in partnership with Brunel University London, emphasises how sports coaches can play a central part in young people’s lives, not just as facilitators of sporting talent, but as trusted role models who can support emotional development and better mental health.

The report includes findings from a UK survey of 14-24 year-olds commissioned by StreetGames that confirms this ‘trusted role model’ view of coaches among young people.

This included observations that more young people living in households with an annual income of £20,000 or less (the bottom 20-30% as defined by England’s Index of Multiple Deprivation) said they would confide in a coach, compared to higher income groups in the survey. Disadvantaged teenagers are also three times more likely to endure mental ill health than their more affluent peers.

Jane Ashworth, Chief Executive of StreetGames, explained: “Coaches across the country tell us that they regularly see signs of mental ill-health in their sports projects - young people experiencing depression, anxiety, alienation and sadly sometimes self-harm and suicide. They say that they want to help but feel ill-equipped, not knowing what to say or how to direct youngsters to appropriate specialist support.

“We know that some 75% of lifetime mental health disorders have their onset before age 18, with peak onset of most conditions occurring between the ages of eight and 15. Through our work with businesses and over 1,000 community organisations in the StreetGames network, our aim is to make Mental Health First Aid training for youth sport coaches and volunteers across the UK as commonplace as physical first aid.”

The Brunel University London research team concluded that Mental Health First Aid training not only equips coaches to deliver sport that improves mental health outcomes for young people, it also helps to encourage youngsters in disadvantaged areas to be more active.

The report makes encouraging reading for #21by21 campaigners who believe in the power of sport to drive positive social change, including prominent supporters such as Dame Kelly Holmes, who heads-up her own national charity to support athletes and young people living in disadvantaged communities, The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, as well as TV doctor and former Gladiator Dr Zoe Williams, whose Fit4Life organisation encourages children to lead healthier lives.

Register your support, at the 21by21 campaign website

Download the 'Sport For Better Mental Health’ report

Learn more about StreetGames' 'Buy One, Give One' training offer

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