Belfast Telegraph

Mental health and sport - your views

Playing in teams provides children with a life-long support system
Playing in teams provides children with a life-long support system

The link between physical activity and positive mental wellbeing has been well documented and in a recent survey 83% of our readers agree. Here, in association with Lidl Community Works Sport for Good, we reveal how you feel about mental health; including the causes of poor mental health and the solutions to improve it…

Lidl Community Works Sport for Good is a new chapter in the retailer’s Lidl Community Works programme which was set up in 2014, created with the aim to provide support and resources to local communities in NI.

It’s a programme that responds and acts on statistics that show 1 in 4 young people struggle with their mental health here in Northern Ireland*. The scheme also provides youth sporting organisations with support to allow those growing up here to access physical activity that can enhance their wellbeing.

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Playful group of teenage friends on a basketball court
Taking part in sport has been shown to have both physical and mental benefits for children. Participating in sports and playing in teams provides children with a life-long support system of friends and mentors and can improve their social skills, self-esteem, body confidence and ability to deal with peer pressure. Lidl’s mission is to encourage young people to make the most of the physical and mental benefits of taking part in sports so they can have a healthy body and mind.

In a recent Belfast Telegraph reader survey 86% of respondents said they were aware that youth mental wellbeing in NI was declining and, worryingly, 84% of those questioned said they don’t feel enough is being done to safeguard the mental wellbeing of our youths.

When asked what respondents felt attributed most to the decline in mental health among young people in Northern Ireland, 40% cited multiple sources; social media, a lack of education, inability of individuals, stigma and shame and the collapse of the NI Executive as the cause.

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Conceptual image showing effect from social media resulting in depression disorder
“Today’s generation is caught up so much in social media that their interaction with each other is through virtual means rather than the physical setup up with each other and playing together,” said one reader.

Seven percent of respondents blamed the collapsed government here as the main cause of lowered mental health in young people. One respondent added: “The government needs to get back into power and work on this, implement strategies that will encourage the youth to engage in more physical activities and sport.”

Other individual responses suggested socio economics, a lack of housing, poverty, and a change in family dynamics were to blame while one parent expressed concerns over “easy access” to drugs.

The majority of those surveyed agreed that there is a strong link between sport and positive mental health (83%) with only two respondents stating they felt there was no importance between mental wellbeing and sport.

Those who agreed revealed how their own life experiences reinforced the synergy between being physical active and feeling good mentally.

One reader said: “As a teacher and an avid park runner I have seen first hand the benefits exercise does for mental health wellbeing.” Another said: “An active body leads to an active mind. This is fact and while exercising young people are not falling into the traps of worse things the world can throw at them.”

Others credited the sense of community that being part of a sports team offers to a young person. “By being involved in sport, young people have a sense of belonging. They will also have people to talk to. Sport is a good forum for having mental health awareness workshops,” read one comment.

And one newcomer to the exercise scene stated: “Only recently have I been bitten by the exercise bug myself and I know first hand how good it is for mental wellbeing from personal experience.”

Discussing our findings Conor Boyle, Regional Director for Lidl Northern Ireland, said:

“Through our longstanding 'Lidl Community Works' programme, Lidl Northern Ireland is committed to providing local support. Encouraging young people to make the most of the physical and mental benefits when taking part in sports plays an important role in this programme. We recently launched the 'Sports for Good' programme, investing £160,000 into 38 local clubs to win training accessories, further encouraging participation in sport and a positive mindset.

Those who responded to our recent survey have reinforced our goals through programmes such as this, as over 83% agree that being a part of a sport related community promotes a positive mindset. At Lidl Northern Ireland, we are proud to be a part of this movement through ‘Community Works’ which first launched in 2014. We have engaged with over 750 community groups to date ,raising over £420,000 in 2018 alone for local charities and community groups, including our National charity partner NSPCC Northern Ireland."

To find out more about the Lidl Community Works Sport for Good programme and see how your local youth sports club could
WIN £4000 worth of sporting equipment visit www.lidl-ni.co.uk/communityworks

*Source: Mental Health Foundation’s Fundamental Facts for Northern Ireland, October 2018.

**Our survey questioned 619 Belfast Telegraph readers.

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