The PPF Chairman, Brendon Batson OBE, writes about the development and launch of the Mental Health Charter for Sport which was launched with the Deputy Prime Minister on 25 March 2015.
“Sport has the power to change the world.”
Most of us will know, and continue to be moved by, Nelson Mandela’s oft quoted speech about sport and its power to reach places that politicians cannot.
Mental health is an issue which will affect millions of people each year from every walk of life. It is another of those areas where sport has the power to make a real difference to society. And I firmly believe that by focussing on mental health and wellbeing we will also help to improve our sports.
Professional sport has some of the best medical rehabilitation and injury prevention systems in the world but when it comes to the brain – perhaps the single most important muscle for any sport – we still have a way to go.
Back in 2013 the Professional Players Federation ran a conference on mental health in sport. It was a powerful day that left an impression on almost everyone present. The moving personal testimonies from former England internationals like Duncan Bell and Graeme Fowler combined with stories from players who didn’t quite make it like Andrew Jordan were startling. We heard about Selorm Kuadey formerly of Sale Sharks who tragically committed suicide in his early twenties after retiring from rugby due to injury.
The conference also focussed on some of good work going on out there. The PFA has its network of counsellors and its partnership with Sporting Chance. The RPA, PCA and LMA all work closely with LPP Consulting to provide confidential help and support to their members. The mental health and sport charity State of Mind has an excellent partnership with Rugby Football League and its player association, League 13.
We wanted, and needed, to find a way to keep mental health on the agenda and bring more of the sports family on board. So back in October last year in collaboration with Darren Bailey of the Football Association we pulled together a meeting of interested sports associations at Wembley. The meeting was held in one of the biggest meeting rooms at the FA so I think it speaks volumes that the room was filled to capacity with everyone who wanted to be involved.
As a first step it was agreed to draw up a charter for mental health and sport as a focal point for us all to act around. A small working group was set up which drew together the players, governing bodies and mental health charities to produce the final Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation. This was launched with the Deputy Prime Minister on 25 March 2015 at the Oval Cricket Ground.
It is Important to stress that this is a charter for sport by sport. Whilst we obviously welcome the support of government and the advice from the mental health charities, this has been driven by sport. The Charter is a living document that is aimed at elite sport and also the wider population with the interconnection between the two sectors.
So what is the charter about? Briefly:
- It’s about making a commitment to take mental health seriously.
- It’s about developing and sharing best practice.
- It’s about sport and recreation playing its part for society on mental health
Having launched the Charter we have now set up a small working group to oversee how it goes forward. We need to develop best practice examples so that we can provide practical advice for sports that want to improve their support of mental health for their participants, staff, volunteers and spectators. These examples and case studies will form a major part of a national conference on mental health and sport to be held in October to coincide with world mental health day.
The charter is not an end in itself. It is the beginning of a journey that we hope the whole of sport and recreation will join us on. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Sport and Recreation Alliance to help spread the message, develop good practice and get more sport and recreations to recognise the benefits of addressing mental health. If you have not already done so we would urge your association to visit the Alliance website and sign up today.
Brendon Batson OBE
Chairman, Professional Players Federation