Sport in Mind is a Berkshire-based charity that uses sport to promote mental well-being and improve the lives of people experiencing mental health problems. Support through Sport UK spoke to Founder Neil Harris to find out more …
 
Hi Neil. Can you tell us a bit more about the aims of your charity?
 
Sport in Mind’s objective is to use sport to help aid the recovery of people experiencing mental health problems and raise awareness of mental illness. Sport itself is an excellent means of helping people experiencing mental health problems as it has been proven to have a positive impact on both mental and physical health, whilst obviously being really good fun.
 
Raising awareness of mental illness is also one of our primary objectives as there is still a huge amount of stigma associated with this type of illness and many people feel unable to talk about their problems. The truth is, mental illness isn’t something to be embarrassed about, one in four of us will be affected by a mental health problem this year and many of the UK’s top sports stars have also been affected, including David Beckham, Andrew Flintoff and Victoria Pendleton.
 
Has it been scientifically proven that sport can have a positive impact on mental health? 
 
Yes, there have been many studies showing the positive effect sport and exercise has on people’s mental well-being. Most people know that regular exercise is beneficial to their physical health, but many people are still unaware of the positive impact exercise can have on their mental health. Scientifically speaking, when we exercise, our body releases chemicals called endorphins, which help to reduce our levels of anxiety and depression. People who suffer from mental illness that participate in regular sporting activities actually have reduced levels of anxiety, improvements in mood and increased self-esteem.
 
What sorts of sports does the charity offer?
 
We run ten sports sessions a week in Berkshire, ranging from five-a-side football to more serene activities like yoga. Since our inception, we have run a total of 16 different sports groups including badminton, table tennis, Tai Chi, swimming, tennis, cricket, basketball, rounders, unihoc, volleyball and wall-climbing.
 
Can anyone come along, regardless of their age, sex and ability?
 
Yes, anyone over the age of 18 who is experiencing mental health problems is welcome to attend our sessions.
 
Where are your sports sessions held and when?
 
The majority of sports sessions take place at leisure centres in and around Reading and Newbury. For a timetable of current sessions, contact Sport in Mind’s website or email us at info@sportinmind.org
 
Looking to the future, are you hoping to offer Sport in Mind sessions outside of Berkshire too?
 
Sport in Mind is very keen to offer sports sessions outside of Berkshire in the future - this is certainly something we will looking to achieve. At this moment in time, however, we are very focused on the areas that we are currently working in and on helping our participants on their road to recovery.
 
How can people help out with Sport in Mind?
 
We’re always looking for people to get involved with the charity, whether it’s through volunteering at our sports sessions, organising fundraising events, undertaking sponsored challenges or behind the scenes work. Our aim is simply to make a difference to people's lives and if there’s anyone out there that wants to get involved, we’d love to hear from you. Anyone wanting to get involved can contact us through our website www.sportinmind.org or email us at info@sportinmind.org
 
Thank you so much for talking to Support through Sport UK, Neil.