Within the Higher Education sector there is an increasing concern about the growing number of students suffering from mental health conditions, with a recent survey indicating 63% of students experience stress or anxiety which interferes with day to day life and 71% reporting that the main source of stress was university work (YouGov, 2016).
Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge to tackle the “stigma” around mental health problems, as well as speaking of plans to tackle the burning injustice of mental illness, issued earlier this month at the Charity Commission annual meeting in London. However, the focus will lie mainly on schools, with HE being left out of the picture, even though figures show that mental illness disproportionately affects young people and those on lower and middle incomes with over half of mental health problems starting by the age of 14 and 75% by 18. (Gov.uk, 2017).
Warwick Sport has been successfully awarded funding from Sport England as part of their new strategy to launch a Physical Activity Referral Programme. The first stage of this project is the Wellbeing Outreach pilot project which started on Monday 16 January across locations on campus.
Dedicated to both students and staff who want to prevent as well as treat initial signs of mental health concerns, there are four classes for staff and four for students each week. Classes last between 30-45mins and are designed to improve mood, resilience and coping abilities and reduce stress, through a variety of classes from calming and restorative mind-body movement to stress-busting lightweight resistance training. Additionally, the classes are offered free of charge and located on accessible spots across campus such as the Library and Rootes building. Booking is required and more details of this can be found online at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/sport/events/health-and-wellbeing/.
The second arm to the Mental Health and Wellbeing programme is the Physical Activity Referral programme which is currently in trial mode. A group of students who have been identified based on particular criteria are enrolled for a three-month period, during which they will receive extensive support to engage in physical activity. After an evaluation phase which will identify changes and impact of the programme, more students will be able to benefit from the scheme. More details on this will follow once the trial has been completed.
Warwick Sport has a vision of having the most active University campus community in the UK, with everyone active, every day by 2020 as it recognises the importance of having an active, healthy population.
Warwick Sport has developed four strategic themes; Enhancing the Student and Staff Experience, Increasing Participation, Building Communities and Sustainable Contribution, which will enable the achievement of this vision. Warwick Sport’s collaboration with another department on campus contributes to achieving this vision, by facilitating accessible participation in sport and activity to as many students and staff as possible.