footballThe vast majority of people – 84% - believe that the government should invest more money in mental health sport and physical activity programmes, a survey has found.

The poll, established to examine the public’s understanding of how sport and recreation can impact mental health, also revealed 80% of people agreed their mental health is improved if they exercise or are physically active. The study of 1,000 people was commissioned by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the Professional Player’s Federation (PPF) and mental health Mind.

With 1 in 4 people in the UK anticipated to experience a mental health problem each year, the sport and recreation sector, along with Mind, is calling on government to further support and invest in collaborative mental health and physical activity programmes. The additional funding would build on existing initiatives such as Mind’s Sport England and National Lottery funded programme Get Set to Go, which supports people to get active through sport.

Former England cricketer Marcus Trescothick, who has experienced depression, commented: “We are aware of our responsibility to make sport accessible to people of all ages, background and ability, and this includes those who may have difficulties with confidence and self-esteem.

“The Mental Health Charter highlights the provisions sport has already put in place to support people dealing with mental health problems.

“Yet, as a sector with the capacity to reach so many, there are still more opportunities to create new initiatives which can help to educate and involve people in physical activity as a means of coping and restoring their mental health. In order to break down the stigma, the sport and recreation sector has and will continue to work together to action the objectives of the Charter.”

The poll, released ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation, also identified the importance of engagement through health professionals. Of the 1,000 questioned, 85% agreed that GPs, nurses and pharmacists should promote sport and physical activity as a treatment to help people with their mental health.

Boxer and former footballer Leon McKenzie added: “We know that sport can be great for both physical and mental health and, as an athlete myself, I am supporting the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation and am calling for more money to be pumped into sports programmes, to help improve the wellbeing of the nation.”

Since the Mental Health Charter was launched more than 230 signatories have committed to making positive change. Established to promote the mental health benefits of an active lifestyle, the Charter harnesses sport and recreation at an elite and community level to tackle stigma.

Emma Boggis, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, said: “Evidence shows that being active can help prevent mental health problems and help people to deal with them. This can be for everyone, whether participating at grassroots through to elite level. We encourage more organisations and current supporters of the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation to demonstrate their backing and increase momentum behind mental health sport and physical activity programmes.”

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at Mind, added: “The recent Mental Health Taskforce report recommends greater access to interventions for physical activity to help people with mental health problems who are at greater risk of poor physical health.

"Mind is pleased to be working with the sport and recreation sector to deliver programmes and tackle stigma around mental health through physical activity.”

The PPF’s chief executive, Simon Taylor, concluded: “Every time a sportsman or woman talks about their mental health it helps to break down some of the stigma that millions of people face each day. Sport is a great way to promote good mental health for everyone.”