We’re facing an escalation in the prevalence of mental health challenges right across the population. According to Mind, the mental health charity, twenty five per cent of adults experience some kind of mental health crisis each year, while ten per cent of school-aged children are in need of support for mental-health related issues.
Care is in short supply. Mind says the average wait time of treatment for children is 10 years, meaning 75 per cent of children and their families are living without the professional support they need to either resolve their issues or find more positive ways to manage them.
Given 75 per cent of mental illness starts before the age of 15, the situation is serious and deteriorating.
But knowing we have a problem is only the start and, for many people, being aware of how to get help and then having it available in the form of a useable and accessible service is the biggest challenge.
In a new development – announced this month – sport and fitness operator Sheffield International Venues (SIV), has recognised this need and has struck a new partnership with health and wellbeing provider Westfield Health for the provision of mental health services for members.
Dave Capper, Westfield Health CEO, told Leisure Management that getting access to support is a major barrier for many, saying: “Research we conducted found that 30 per cent of people felt unsure about who to talk to or where to go to find help or support regarding mental health issues. In addition, 40 per cent of people find it hard to talk about their mental health to anyone.”
SIV and Westfield Health – both non-profit organisations – have created an “access all areas”, combined mental health support and gym membership, which is now available at seven of SIV’s Fitness venues.
The service offers 24/7 telephone counselling, as well as access to a GP over the phone and the opportunity to use the ‘Big White Wall’ – an online mental health and wellbeing service that provides self-help programmes, creative outlets and anonymous online therapy.
Combining mental health support with a gym membership is a great way to break down barriers and make support for those with mental health challenges accessible in a very practical, day-to-day way.
It may not solve the issues surrounding children’s mental health, but it will enable people of gym-going age – often 16-years plus – to have access to support and this is clearly a very big step in the right direction.
Mental health has been the missing piece of the wellness jigsaw puzzle and given how powerfully exercise can boost mood, bringing mental health services alongside gym membership makes perfect sense.
We must promote the view that maintaining mental health is as important as caring for physical health and ensure people have the tools to be able to care for both.
Liz Terry, editor @elizterry