Thursday 2 March 2017

Without sport, I wouldn't be here

Yasmin is a staff member at Imperial College London, where she leads on areas relating to sport and mental health as well as running Student Minds’ Mental Health In Sport Workshops. She studied at Sheffield University where she raised awareness of mental health through charity fundraising.

- Yasmin, Imperial College London

It’s vital to talk about mental health.1 in 4 people are affected by mental health issues - of course it is something to address. Mental health issues aren’t always visible, but that level of prevalence needs to be addressed, for treatment, overcoming stigma, and resolution. If we don’t know we can’t help.

From a personal experience, mental health is close to my heart. I know people who have mental health issues and I understand what it takes for them to get through the things others take for granted – such as even getting out of bed. Everything becomes so much more of a challenge. We should talk about it so everyone understands, supports and removes the embarrassment associated with having a mental health condition. Turning mental health from an issue to an element of wellbeing is key to overcoming the stigmas but if we don’t talk, we won’t know and we can’t help.

"Quite simply without sport, I wouldn't be working where I work"

Mental health at Imperial

I recently took on a new role combining student sport and student support within Sport Imperial. I will be delivering the Student Minds Mental Health training to all incoming Sports Committee members, creating an online chat forum with the students, and working with the University ‘Mentality’ Society about new ideas. Furthermore, we will look at the Stress-Buster activities around exam times and promote and develop these further as well as providing regular drop-in sessions for students who have concerns or questions about mental health.

My main focus will be on promoting mental health in a positive light by addressing it as wellbeing incorporating sport as one of the key developments and encouraging students to engage in activity.

University Sport and Student Wellbeing
University sport is highly beneficial to students’ wellbeing for many reasons: tackling home sickness, engaging in new opportunities to challenge the brain, stress relief, and dealing with depression. Sport and exercise can change people’s lives. Being a student is a key time to pick up on potentially stressful situations that can cause declines in mental wellbeing, and turn them into opportunities for personal development and an increase in student wellbeing.

Engaging in sporting opportunities can get students out of their rooms, into social environments, and help them make friends – students often worry about fitting in when they move to university, and such activities will overcome this barrier. Engagement and participation will leave students with a sense of achievement. The adrenaline rush and the ‘feel good factor’ that is associated to sport is a positive and uplifting experience.

Furthermore, sport has positive associations for feeling good, being active and leading a healthy lifestyle, whereas mental health carries a ‘stigma’ because it is a sensitive subject. Marrying up a stigmatised topic with one of positivity can really help to break the ‘stigma’ down and help us understand mental health and wellbeing in a positive light - where sport is encouraged as a therapy for depression and general stress that are common in academic institutions.

Yasmin's story is one of a series of Active Mental Health stories, collected by Student Minds for University Mental Health Day 2017. To find watch or read more, visit our Active Mental Health stories page!

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