Charity unleashes power of sport for children’s minds with free resources

Children’s Mental Health Week (1 to 7 February 2021).

Children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust has released a suite of free lifestyle tools and stress-busting techniques to support healthier and happier children on Place2Be’s Children’s Mental Health Week. 

The charity will now share a series of lesson plans, top tip videos from former sports stars and a wall planner to help young people manage their mental health. In 2016, the charity launched a programme called Active in Mind in 25 secondary schools across England. The programme offers support to young people experiencing mental wellbeing issues, to use physical activity, positive lifestyle habits and psycho-social strategies to improve their mindset.  

It comes as the Youth Sport Trust revealed that Physical Education, sport and exercise helped 27% of young people feel better during lockdown in the summer, with 40% stating that not being able to take part in sport during lockdown was something that had made them feel worse. 

Chris Wright, Head of Health and Wellbeing at the Youth Sport Trust, said: 

Research has shown us that 500,000 children and teenagers who had no mental health problems before Covid-19 now need support in 2021. No one could have predicted the arrival of this virus, but we can control our response to it. 

“As a charity we believe the role of physical activity and sport will be vital in young people’s recovery and setting them up to be the healthiest and happiest children in the world. I’ve seen the life changing impact Active in Mind can have and it’s why we’ve taken the decision to make it widely available for every child who needs it.” 

14-year-old Amy Truelove from Nottingham is one of the 7,000 young people to benefit from the strategies taught over the last three years. When Amy’s teacher at The Redhill Academy, Sarah Johnson, spotted Amy was finding it hard to make herself heard, was shy and lacking confidence on starting at the school, she immediately signed Amy up to Active in Mind.  

Amy has Scoliosis, and following numerous operations, she found it hard to take part in PE and be part of school life. The pain management side of the condition impacted her mental health. Amy says it is a good thing that the strategies she learnt to help boost her mood and confidence in everyday life are now being opened to families and young people all over the world.  

When I moved up from primary school into secondary school, I was quiet, shy and found it hard to communicate with my teachers and couldn’t take part in PE lessons,” Amy said. “I would get frustrated and not know how to process my emotions, but Active in Mind has given me strategies for life. 

“It is so important, especially in the times we currently find ourselves in, to make sure the mental health of young people is getting the attention that it deserves. All too often my generation are overlooked in times of crisis and just expected to cope with everything going on around them and function as they normally would."

61% of young people on the programme also reported that it had helped them to cope better with their mental health and many had told the charity how it helped them to feel more relaxed. 

Amy added: “Active in Mind has made a really big difference to me personally because it has made me feel more confident, not only in sports but also in school and everyday life. I feel happier and healthier both mentally and physically since starting it and I like how nobody can judge you, you’re able to be yourself around others.” 

Amy’s dad, Chris, told the Youth Sport Trust how Amy’s confidence and resilience have grown significantly since being part of the programme. She has gone on to complete a level 1 sports leader course, teaching numerous groups of younger students about physical activity, and is now a mentor on the Active in Mind programme supporting younger students who are experiencing similar difficulties she once faced. 

Ali Oliver MBE, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: 

We are proud to be supporting Place2Be’s Children’s Mental Health Week and this year’s theme of Express Yourself. Our mission is to pioneer ways of using sport to improve young people’s wellbeing and give them a brighter future.   

In the shadow of the pandemic it is wonderful to know we can help the many young people who are struggling with mental health and support their families with practical advice and help. Our Active in Mind materials have been proven to support the young people who have used them to cope better with life today and develop strategies to help them tomorrow.

All the free resources can be viewed and downloaded from the Youth Sport Trust’s website from the start of the awareness week on 1 February 2021. Visit www.youthsporttrust.org/active-mind