Pandemic Focus for World Mental Health Day 2020

This year’s World Mental Health Day (10th October), has its focus, predictably, on the pandemic impact.

The global event is designed to encourage authorities and organisations to act upon and create lasting change within mental health care. With the huge challenges posed by COVID-19, it is arguably the most important year yet.

The World Federation for Mental Health, the organisation behind this day, has two priorities: firstly, to remove feelings of shame or embarrassment when talking about or suffering from mental health issues, and secondly, to educate and reduce the stigma associated with such illnesses.

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2020 mental health figures are already higher than those of the previous year. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has also drastically disrupted or halted critical mental health services and it is, therefore, essential for us to come together as a sporting family to support one another in these uniquely difficult times.

Sport England’s latest activity data (11-14th September) stated that “66% of adults agree exercise is helping them manage their physical health, with 60% using it to manage their mental health.”

Social isolation has long been known as a predominant trigger for mental health issues. Playing team sports has well documented prophylactic properties.

In their Active Lives November 2018/19 survey, Sport England found that those who are active or fairly active are less likely to feel lonely than those who are inactive (less than 30 minutes a week).

Never in its history has netball been more important to promoting the wellbeing of all involved in the sport.

Physical activity on its own has been shown to have a positive influence on mental wellbeing. A recent survey of England Netball members found that 94% of members agree being involved in netball has made a positive difference to their mood and outlook.

It can increase self-esteem as well as reducing stress and anxiety. The synergy achieved by combining team camaraderie with physical activity can only serve to enhance mental health.

Team sports further encourage social interaction and while COVID-19 has threatened to eliminate day-to-day social interactions for many, there have been countless examples across social media of clubs up and down the country continuing to come together – albeit remotely during lockdown – with regular catch-ups, quizzes and training challenges being just a few examples.

We may all self-identify in different ways. Being part of a team can be a significant part of who we are. Team membership not only defines part of who we are, it also provides us with a support network we identify with.

Although there are restrictions in place, most activities ranging from grassroots to elite level are back up and running with additional COVID-19 safety measures in place. The latest England Netball guidance is available to view here.

Written by Gina Sparks

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