StreetGames launches 'Sport for better Mental Health' report

StreetGames has launched a new research report making the case for training sports coaches in Mental Health First Aid to improve young people’s wellbeing.

The report was launched to coincide with Mental Health Week (May 13-20) and the launch of the #21by21 campaign, which aims to provide 21,000 UK sports coaches and volunteers with mental health training by 2021.

The ‘Sport For Better Mental Health’ report, published by the charity in partnership with Brunel University London, emphasises how sports coaches can play a central part in young people’s lives - not just as facilitators of sporting talent, but as trusted role models who can support emotional development and better mental health.


The report includes findings from a UK survey of 14 to 24-year-olds commissioned by StreetGames that confirm this ‘trusted role model’ view of coaches among young people:

     - Nearly half (43%) of the 14 to 24-year-olds surveyed from across the UK said they would turn to their sports coach for emotional support and advice.

     - One in five (20%) said they would confide in a coach about something that’s worrying them; 21% said they would turn to a coach for motivation for school, college or university; 15% for career advice; and 10% to talk about problems with friends.

     - Despite this willingness to talk, six out of 10 (67%) agreed it is much harder to talk openly about their mental health than their physical health because of the stigma attached to mental health issues. The older the young person, the more they agreed: 74% of 22 to 24-year-olds, compared to 69% of 19 to 21-year-olds and 65% of 14 to 18-year-olds.

Jane Ashworth, Chief Executive of StreetGames, explained: “Coaches across the country tell us that they regularly see signs of mental ill health in their sports projects - young people experiencing depression, anxiety, alienation and sadly sometimes self-harm and suicide. They say that they want to help but feel ill-equipped, not knowing what to say or how to direct youngsters to appropriate specialist support.


“We know that some 75% of lifetime mental health disorders have their onset before age 18, with peak onset of most conditions occurring between the ages of eight and 15. Through our work with businesses and over 1,000 community organisations in the StreetGames network, our aim is to make Mental Health First Aid training for youth sport coaches and volunteers across the UK as commonplace as physical first aid.”

More young people living in households with an annual income of £20,000 or less (the bottom 20-30% as defined by England’s Index of Multiple Deprivation) said they would confide in a coach, compared to higher income groups in the survey. Disadvantaged teenagers are also three times more likely to endure mental ill health than their more affluent peers.

Findings from Brunel University London research into the impact of the ‘Safe, Fit & Well’ programme delivered by coaches trained in Mental Health First Aid are also shared in the report. The national StreetGames programme piloted the provision of sport for better mental health as a direct response to feedback from coaches and professionals from across the UK.

Download the report.

About the #21by21 Campaign

#21by21 is a national campaign that brings together UK sport organisations with business and policy-makers in a pledge to provide 21,000 community sports coaches and volunteers with mental health awareness training by 2021. The campaign is being co-ordinated by the Sport for Development Coalition. Visit to find out more about the campaign and mental health awareness training options for sports coaches and volunteers across the UK.