Awareness of mental ill-health is the starting point and a gap exists between this and the action needed to find solutions. Leisure operators have the opportunity and responsibility to take action.
Upskilling across the board – from senior management and front-of-house staff to PTs and instructors – will ensure both members and staff are covered.
The Active IQ Level 2 Award in Mental Health Awareness has been expertly assembled and comprises two units: Mental Health Awareness and Mental Health First Aid. The qualification provides learners with an understanding and awareness of common mental health disorders and issues; reduces stigma and discrimination; encourages people to talk about mental health; identifies the early signs and highlights signposting options.
The qualification was developed by Andy Gilbert, Active IQ qualification development manager, in tandem with Dr Dane Vishnubala, Active IQ chief medical adviser and mental health organisations.
Gilbert has a professional and personal interest in mental health. He holds a degree in psychology and additional qualifications in mental health and has worked with mental health charities. From his experience of mental illness, he understands how hard it can be to talk about how you’re feeling, for fear of being judged or considered a ‘lesser person’.
“Reducing stigma and discrimination will lead to people being more open about mental health and thus able to access the support needed,” he says.
“Our qualification increases learners’ awareness, encourages empathy and instils confidence to speak to people affected by mental ill-health. The first aid module makes our qualification stand out from the crowd and equips learners to speak to someone experiencing a decline or crisis in their mental health. Having the confidence to step in here has the potential to save lives.”
Example: Fusion Lifestyle
Fusion is one of the first operators to implement the Level 2 Mental Health Awareness qualification.
Its staff training was delivered by Robin Gargrave, co-founder of Ad Lib Training, whose insight as a contributor to the qualification and an experienced Active IQ training provider is second-to-none..
“Leisure centres act as community hubs and it’s important our services are all-encompassing, ensuring mental as well as physical health support is available,” says Fusion's Matthew Houghton. “With 87 sites and around 3,500 employees we’re conscious we can make a difference. We've trained mental health champions in centres to look out for members and colleagues, especially staff working shifts or long hours.
“The Active IQ course heightened everyone’s awareness and developed empathy. It made us more mindful of staff needs and we’re looking at creating a mental health module to enhance employee training," says Houghton.
“We've applied our learnings to our Exercise on Referral Schemes that previously only focused on improving physical conditions," he says. "We get referrals for depression and anxiety, so this is important. We knew the positive benefits of exercise for mental health, but the course went into more depth in identifying symptoms and giving helpful strategies.
“We trained a variety of colleagues to ensure our sites are covered including a learning and development manager, GP referral instructors and stroke referral instructors. From here we can cascade knowledge across the group and ensure ongoing training as new staff join.
“Mental health issues are not always visible, but we now know the signs to look out for and how to help.”