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New Active Schools partnership will support Aberdeenshire pupils

By Kyle Ritchie

Schools in Aberdeenshire will have access to Active School coordinators that will be trained to exercise and manage mental health as well as physical health.

It is part of a new partnership between the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and sportscotland.

Launched by SAMH’s long-standing ambassador, Olympic gold winner Sir Chris Hoy, the new initiative will offer mental health training to 400 Active Schools coordinators across Scotland.

Sir Chris Hoy launched the new partnership between Active Schools and SAMH.
Sir Chris Hoy launched the new partnership between Active Schools and SAMH.

The partnership with sportscotland aims to help the next generation of young people protect their mental health through physical activity and sport.

The 400 strong group of Active Schools coordinators will benefit from a mental health training programme that teaches practical ways of monitoring and managing mental health through their work in schools across the country.

Aberdeenshire-based Active School manager, Brian Mitchell, said: “Further education, across the board, on mental health awareness is really important, especially where young people are concerned.

“We are engaging with young people every day and have the opportunity to identify signs that an individual is struggling with their mental health in the early stages.

"In doing so, we can make a difference through early intervention and make a real, positive, difference if we think something is wrong.

“With this training provided by SAMH, we will be better equipped to handle these situations with confidence and hopefully, make a difference to the lives of the young people of Scotland.”

SAMH launched its first sport and physical activity campaign in 2009 alongside Sir Chris Hoy. Together, the Olympian and SAMH have spent the last decade tackling the barriers that prevent people with mental health problems from improving their physical fitness.

Billy Watson, chief executive of SAMH, said: “We’re thrilled to announce this strategic partnership with sportscotland which we believe could be a major breakthrough in building the mental health and wellbeing capacities within sports and their organisations. Sportscotland’s leadership on mental health is setting the standard that we hope others will live up to.

“It is especially pleasing that we will be getting to work immediately in schools right across Scotland, so our young people can carry a new understanding and resilience around mental wellbeing through sport and physical activity, for generations to follow.”

Sportscotland was both a steering group member and one of the first organisations to sign up to Scotland’s Mental Health Charter for Physical Activity and Sport, a project by SAMH to make sport more accessible to people with mental health problems.

Winner of a record haul of six Olympic gold medals, Hoy said: “I’m proud to mark 10 years as a SAMH ambassador by launching a new partnership that will help the next generation of young people have better mental health through physical activity.

“I’ve experienced some of the biggest highs in sporting history but there have been low points too. During those low moments it was cycling that gave me the strength to keep going.

"I’m a real believer in the link between physical activity and good mental health as I know how my mood and wellbeing can be affected if I don’t manage to get out on my bike regularly.”

The new partnership, which was launched on World Mental Health Day, will see SAMH and sportscotland working together to deliver the aims of the charter, as well as creating a learning and development programme for sportscotland staff, developing in-depth mental health and wellbeing programmes and exploring other opportunities for joint work.

Stewart Harris, chief executive, sportscotland said: “Sportscotland was proud to sign up to Scotland’s Mental Health Charter for Physical Activity and Sport last year but it was always the beginning of our journey, not the end.

“Young people in particular have told us how they sometimes feel participation isn’t for them, especially when they are facing challenges in their lives. But they have also shared incredible stories of how sport has turned their lives around through the intervention of a teacher or active schools coordinator.

"That’s why we are working with SAMH to deliver mental health training in schools and communities right across Scotland. If it can help even one young person to cope with mental health problems and allow them to fulfil their potential, that would be a fantastic achievement.”

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