Coronavirus, an update from Active Cornwall

Mental Health Awareness in Sports & Physical Activity

By Rahul Mittal (University of Exeter Business School), Rob Harrison (Active Cornwall) and Richard Sharpe (Public health Cornwall)

Mental Health Awareness in Sport and Physical Activity

Mental health issues and wellbeing problems can affect anyone at any point in their lives and not only impacts the individual but also can affect families, communities and the wider society. It is estimated 1 in 6 adults have experienced a common mental disorder like depression or anxiety in the past week and 1 in 8 children aged 5 to 19 are estimated to have at least one mental health problem1.  The recent COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had in people's lives has only strengthened the need for us to look after our mental health and wellbeing as well as our physical health even more. A 2020 Healthwatch Cornwall survey indicated that levels of anxiety and depression had increased across our communities in Cornwall and highlighted the urgent need for measures to help maintain and protect people's mental wellbeing2.  Another recent survey carried out by University of Exeter Business School also highlighted that 75% of all clubs and community groups had seen an increase in their client's wellbeing being poorly impacted since COVID-19 started3  (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1 Survey results from the question asking if clubs and community groups had noticed if their client's health and wellbeing had been impacted since COVID-19 started. This is from the recent survey carried out by the University of Exeter Business School3

Mental health not only has a significant impact on the individual but has serious burden on our health services. New and joined up approaches are now needed to help manage mental health conditions and reduce demands on the health service in local communities in Cornwall.

One such approach is through using Social Prescribing (SP) which helps to support people to access and use non-medical sources of support to help address their poor mental health and encourage more choice and control over their own treatment (self-management). There are a wide range of ways SP is delivered and one way is connecting the individual to support through local voluntary and community groups, who can contribute in helping improve mental health and wellbeing. The outcomes from people using SP have been generally positive for people with mild and moderate mental health problems4.

Sports clubs and community groups in Cornwall have also highlighted mental health as one of their top priorities to address and support as part of their training and development needs (Figure 2). Sports clubs and physical activity organisation have a crucial role to play in supporting their members and helping communities to recover as restrictions are relaxed and people return. Sports clubs have an important social role in responding to the impacts of social isolation as well as physical activity for supporting mental health and wellbeing. This is supported by a soon to be released Healthwatch Cornwall survey looking at accessing mental health support which confirmed that walking and other kinds of exercise were far the most common positive things people were now doing to support their mental health and wellbeing5.

Figure 2

Figure 2 Survey results from the question asking what training and development needs are for sports clubs and community groups are in Cornwall. This is from the recent survey carried out by the University of Exeter Business School3

We are calling on all clubs and community groups in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to become mental health aware and nominate at least one individual for training. Active Cornwall has teamed up with UK Coaching and Mind to offer Mental Health Awareness in Sport and Physical Activity+ for FREE.

This 2-hour online workshop that has recently been updated and has been awarded 1.5 CPD points by the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA)

Please help us achieve our target of at least one person in every club trained

Click here to sign up today!!!

Please also visit our mental health and wellbeing information and guidance available online. Our mental health and wellbeing web pages provide further information about the Five Ways to Wellbeing, which can help someone with their mental health and wellbeing. There are also a range of mental wellbeing guides, which provide a lot of information and advice. In addition, there are our mental health safety plans. Whether you are a young person or adult, making a Mental Health Safety Plan can help you manage your mental wellbeing.

"Our interim results have revealed the challenges faced by residents attempting to access mental health support during the pandemic - but also shone a light on how they were managing to cope with the stress, isolation and uncertainty it presented. In Cornwall, we have access to stunning coastal and wild outdoor places to spend time and our respondents told us how this had helped - with exercise and being active widely reported as being beneficial and supporting them with their mental health during difficult times."

Mario Dunn, CEO Healthwatch Cornwall.


1 Baker, C. (2020) 'Mental health statistics for England', House of Commons Library, Number 698(6988)

2 Healthwatch Cornwall (2020). Cornwall Coronavirus Survey 2020: Full Report. Available online:

3 Mittal R (2021) The impact of social prescribing on voluntary and community groups in Cornwall-Survey

4 Hassan, S. M. et al. (2020) 'Social prescribing for people with mental health needs living in disadvantaged communities: The Life Rooms model', BMC Health Services Research. BMC Health Services Research, 20(1), pp. 19.

5 Healthwatch Cornwall (2021). Accessing mental health support in Cornwall. (Interim results)