This year World Mental Health Day is on Thursday 10th October, which coincides with the launch of CORE Fitness Education's new course in Mental Health Awareness. Below, I talk to CORE Fitness Education tutor Jason Feavers about mental health, and what we can do within the fitness industry to support the mental health of ourselves, our clients and our colleagues.
Kate: The focus for this year's World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of the scale of suicide around the world and to highlight that every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide. What can we do within a fitness setting to help raise awareness of this?
Jason: We can all play a role in raising awareness of World Mental Health Day. This might be through a display within the gym or other fitness setting. It could even be as simple as using social media to raise awareness. More information on how to get involved can be found here.
The aims of World Mental Health Day are to:
- encourage everyone to help improve awareness of the significance of suicide as a global public health problem
- improve knowledge of what can be done to prevent suicide
- reduce the stigma associated with suicide
- let people who are struggling know that they are not alone
Within the fitness industry I think a lot more could be done on an ongoing basis. This includes improving awareness of mental health conditions in general, as well as providing instructors with the skills and confidence to talk to people about mental health.
Kate: We're really excited to be launching the Active IQ Mental Health Awareness course through CORE Fitness Education. Could you explain a bit more about this new qualification?
Jason: The qualification links in very well with the aims of World Mental Health Day around suicide awareness, but also provides learning to help support people with a range of mental health conditions and to help improve mental wellbeing. The purpose of the course is to:
- provide learners with an understanding and awareness of mental health and common mental health disorders
- help reduce stigma and discrimination
- encourage people to talk about mental health
- be able to recognise and respond to the signs of mental ill health in themselves and others and be able to offer mental health first aid
Kate: How is the qualification delivered?
Jason: The course is split into two units. The first unit covers awareness of different mental health conditions and is an online e-learning module. The second unit covers mental health first aid and is covered in a one day face-to-face workshop.
Kate: Why do you think this is such an important new qualification to be offering?
Jason: It is well evidenced that physical activity can improve mental health and wellbeing. Exercise prescription is recognised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as a treatment option for a range of mental health conditions. The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine's position statement on the role of physical activity and sport in mental health [ https://www.fsem.ac.uk/position_statement/the-role-of-physical-activity-and-sport-in-mental-health/] states that there can still be barriers to exercise and sport participation due to stigma around mental health conditions. We know that getting people with mental health conditions into fitness activities can be really beneficial, but there needs to be appropriate understanding and support within these environments. Without this, people may find it difficult to get involved and could even find their experience of fitness having a negative effect on their mental health. The MHA qualification plays a valuable part in reducing stigma and ensuring the fitness and sport environments are more supportive for future and existing participants.
Kate: How common are mental health conditions?
Jason: According to an NHS survey just under 6% of the population suffer from general anxiety disorder, over 3% are affected by depression and almost 8% have combined anxiety and depression. A key point though is that mental health is on a continuum. We can all benefit from improving mental wellbeing, and anyone can develop a mental health condition. There are some risk factors that can put people more at risk and it's important to be aware of these risk factors and signs that someone's mental health might be deteriorating.
Kate: What would your top tips be for recognising mental ill health and improving mental wellbeing?
Jason: The first tip would be to develop more of an interest in the people we come into contact with. Connecting more with people and taking notice of the world around us can also be beneficial for our own mental health. There may be changes in someone's appearance, such as looking sad, depressed or anxious, or a change in their attention to physical appearance. They may express more negative thoughts about themselves or say that they feel hopeless. It is important to recognise when to signpost people for further support and professional help as well as being able to encourage self-help strategies. '5 steps to wellbeing' is an evidence based resource that anyone can use to improve our mental wellbeing.
Kate: Do learners need any specific qualifications to complete this course?
Jason: Whilst we are launching the course because we recognise the need to improve mental health awareness within fitness and sports, no fitness or coaching qualifications are required. The course is open to anyone who wants a better understanding of mental health and to be able to recognise and support people with mental ill health, either in the workplace, fitness setting or with family friends and themselves.
For more information about the course, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 0845 619 1810 or follow the link to the Mental Health Awareness Course page on our website
Jason Feavers, FRSPH, MSc
Tutor and assessor
Jason has over 20 years experience in various roles within exercise referral and public health. He has worked as an exercise referral instructor, coordinator and as scheme manager responsible for a city wide exercise referral scheme. As well as working with clients with a range of medical conditions, he has developed numerous programmes to increase physical activity levels in people with medical conditions.