The Mental Health Through Sport Symposium was a huge success ©WMCA

The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is helping to champion ground-breaking work across the West Midlands, promoting how sport can prevent mental ill-health and improve well-being, it is claimed. 

Mental health and physical activity leaders have come together for the Mental Health Through Sport Symposium at Birmingham's Newman University.

Around 200 delegates, including academics and researchers, representatives from sporting organisations, local and national government are involved.

The Games prompted the ambition to create long-term physical activity legacies, with discussions focused on how being physically active can improve mental health, while also improving access to sporting opportunities for those with issues.

Ian Reid, chief executive of Birmingham 2022, said at the Symposium: "All of the partners involved in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are committed to delivering a strong legacy for the city and the region, as we absolutely must make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that hosting this event will provide.

"A key part of our mission for Birmingham 2022 is to use the Games as a way of inspiring people from across the West Midlands region to improve their health and well-being, and so events like today's symposium are a fantastic way of sharing ideas and looking at how we can all work together to achieve this aim."

It was the second annual one-day conference organised in partnership by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Sport Birmingham, Newman University and the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is already having an impact on local communities ©Getty Images
The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is already having an impact on local communities ©Getty Images

The Trust's chief psychologist, Dr Amanda Gatherer, who also chairs the Mental Health Through Sport Network, believes there has been major progress in the last year.

This includes the launch of table tennis sessions, as a therapy for sufferers of dementia and other brain functioning loss.

"This rehabilitation focus using table tennis is a direct result of the work of the partnership steering group," Gatherer said.

"We are also developing strong links with local sports governing bodies and organisations, encouraging them through training and awareness to be more accessible to people with mental health problems and we are working to draw on funding to support new initiatives."

The Symposium also saw the launch of the West Midlands Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health Network, led by Sport Birmingham, with funding from mental health charity Mind and Sport England.

Their focus is to increase the number of groups who are equipped with skills to support people with mental health problems in physical activity.

Mike Chamberlain, chief executive of Sport Birmingham, said: "As the city's Active Partnership, Sport Birmingham works to use the power of sport and physical activity to improve lives - we support all local clubs and organisations who help make Birmingham more active, and it's essential that all providers are knowledgeable and confident to understand the positive impact they can have on mental health."