Earlier this year, Cambridge United Community Trust (CUCT) established a secondary school mental health project to improve wellbeing and help young people deal better with stress and anxiety and this week, an evaluation of the project, conducted by Leeds Beckett University, reveals statistically significant improvements in mental health literacy are made as a result of the programme, across all genders and ethnicities.
The greatest improvements were seen across questions including increasing understanding of dealing with stress, the causes of poor mental health and recognising the signs of poor mental health.
The ‘Mind Your Head’ pilot has been running since January 2018 in six central Cambridge secondary schools and reached over 500 young people by the end of the school summer term.
The project is part of Cambridge United’s wider commitment to promoting positive mental health at the club and in the community.
‘Mind Your Head’ is delivered through CUCT in partnership with Cambridge youth mental health charity ‘Centre 33’. The programme provides lessons that destigmatize mental health, educate young people about how to deal with stress and also encourage young people to discuss how social media can both positively and negatively affect their wellbeing.
Report author Professor Jonathan Glazzard said: “Mind Your Head is a great example of the education sector working with a Football Club in their community to improve an issue of vital importance.
“Many people are still reluctant to talk about their mental health, so it’s empowering when footballers talk publically about their issues, such as stress and looking after their own mental health.
“They tend to have experienced their own mental health issues: athletes have a perfectionist trait that provides them with the motivation to succeed, but also has drawbacks in terms of the associated pressures.
“The work being undertaken in Cambridge has shown significant improvements in mental health literacy among the pupils involved. This sort of initiative, carried out on a national scale, could only help improve knowledge and understanding of mental health among school children.”
Josh Turner, one of the pupils who took part from Trumpington Community College said: “Footballers coming in to tell us about mental health is actually quite profound because they are people that young people look up to as their idols.
“The footballers telling us that they sometimes struggle with their mental health is good to listen to and good for our own understanding.”
Sam Squire, a Cambridge United scholar who has been actively involved at schools said: “It’s important for Cambridge United to focus on mental health in schools as that’s when issues such as social media can challenge a young person’s confidence and resilience.
“As a football club we can hopefully use our respected position in society to help promote positive mental health.”