Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Sporting heroes not trusted to coach our children

Gold medal winning triple jumper Phillips Idowu is calling on the public to take giant strides to end to mental health stigma by taking part in this year's Get Moving week (3 to 11 October 2009) a part of the Time to Change campaign to end discrimination. While all eyes are on the athlete at today's Aviva Grand Prix, new research shows only 26% of people would be happy to let their child be coached by someone with a mental health problem.

Sporting heroes like David Beckham, Jonny Wilkinson and Dame Kelly Holmes have all spoken out about their experience of mental distress but the results show that they would not be trusted by the public to coach their kids. The You Gov poll, carried out during the recent IAAF World Championships, found that while 85% think that sportspeople with mental illness set a good example, 48% would only let a sports coach with mental distress teach their children if there were other adults present and a further 13% would rule it out altogether.

Olympian Phillips Idowu said: "It is so sad that people with mental health problems are judged and discriminated against, especially when they are living - or trying to live - normal working lives. These results show that nearly everyone believes that sportspeople with mental illness can be good role models, so I do not understand why so many are opposed to these very same people taking time to pass on their skills to children and encourage them to exercise to improve their physical and mental wellbeing."

Exercise is one of the best ways of improving mental wellbeing but stigma and discrimination mean that many people are unwilling to take part in physical activities involving people with mental health problems. 1 in 10 surveyed admitted they would not want to share gym facilities with someone with mental illness and 1 in 5 would be worried about taking part in a contact sport such as rugby or karate.

Get Moving week will see hundreds of events taking place up and down the country bringing people together with and without experiences of mental distress to break down barriers and combat mental health discrimination. From walking to salsa dancing there is something for everyone and by taking part you can help make life better and fairer for those with experience of mental health problems.

Phillips Idowu will be leading the proceedings at Get Moving and Dance, a festival in Regent's Park in London on World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10 October. He will be joined by a host of celebrities at the event where people can try out different styles of dance.

Another sporty star giving Get Moving her backing is former Spice Girl Mel C, who herself experienced depression. She said "I'm a great believer in the positive effects of exercise on mood and mental wellbeing. Get Moving week is a fantastic way to raise awareness of the proven links between exercise and good mental health and to bring people together all over the country through a range of fun physical activities."

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change said: "By getting people with different experiences of mental health together, we can help everyone to understand more about mental health. The prevailing stigma is society is vastly due to public misunderstanding and Get Moving week is a great way to break these myths. Plus, it gives people the chance to do something active, lifting their mood and benefiting their mental and physical wellbeing".

The Time to Change campaign is England 's biggest and most ambitious programme to end mental health discrimination. The campaign is run by leading mental health charities Mind and Rethink, and backed by £16 million from the Big Lottery Fund and £4 million from Comic Relief.

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