England Athletics and HCAFs uniting to transform mental health through running. ENGLAND ATHLETICS

England Athletics and the other Home Country Athletics Federations (HCAFs) have unveiled an ambitious target of putting a Mental Health Champion into every one of the 5000 running groups and clubs across the UK - aiming to ensure their club and running group community of half a million runners is fully supported to be healthy and happy.

As part of their bid to transform provision for mental health support within physical activity, England Athletics has partnered with Scottish Athletics, Welsh Athletics and Athletics Northern Ireland with the goal of embedding a Mental Health Champion in every club. The role of a Champion is to support people to access the mental wellbeing benefits of running, remove stigma and get people talking about mental health.

Research from England Athletics has indicated that clubs and groups with Mental Health Champions have seen a growth in members specifically looking for help, support, or needing social interaction. Members at these 5000 clubs and groups also regularly report increased mental wellbeing through physical activity and a supportive running environment - nearly 7 in 10 of those who run in a group say they are more confident when it comes to dealing with stress with over 8 in 10 agreeing that running helps with their mental wellbeing.

Members of the 5000 clubs and groups regularly report increased mental wellbeing through physical activity. ENGLAND ATHLETICS
Members of the 5000 clubs and groups regularly report increased mental wellbeing through physical activity. ENGLAND ATHLETICS

The Home Country Athletics Federations currently support nearly 500,000 runners and athletes across their network clubs and their social running groups, and currently have Mental Health Champions in 10% of these clubs and groups – with the bold ambition of making this 100%.

Chris Jones, England Athletics CEO, said “Running is the only activity which can be accessed by almost everyone and can be transformational in terms of helping the nation improve its mental health. Our programme of Mental Health Champions has proved to be invaluable to many running clubs and social groups within our community and we want to provide this important support service to every one of our 5,000 clubs and social running groups”.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, England Athletics launched a new campaign film designed to communicate the power of running to improve mental health.

The film, produced by “Run Communications”, showcases the stories of four individuals whose lives have been transformed by running - Hayley, Josie, Mark, and Zara. From negative experiences with bullying, withdrawing from sport during puberty, to coping with grief and loss, each have a unique experience with mental health and how community running has since changed their lives for the better.

Screenshot from the film
Screenshot from the film

One of the stars of the film, Josie Rhisiart, reflected, “I think running not only has saved my life, but it’s given me a second chance at making a better life for me, my family, and the wider community. I am really proud to be part of this campaign and showcase the profound positive effect group running has on so many across the UK. There is no limit to what running can do in transforming lives for the better.”

According to Jones, the film brilliantly encapsulates why running can save lives. “Running has helped improve the mental wellbeing of so many within our community across the four Home Countries and we want to work with a leading brand to increase the size of our programme which will allow us to help positively change the mental health of the nation,” concluded England Athletics CEO.