Category Archives: Mental health

Competing in the Dark: Mental Health in Sport Conference

** Registration for the conference is now closed, but we are hoping to provide a live stream of keynote speakers for OU staff and students on the day here and we will share some videos from the conference on this blog after the event **

If you have already registered for the conference, don’t forget to make your payment!

For more information please click here

To register for the conference please click here

To view the conference booklet and programme please click here

To download an abstract submission form  click here (completed forms should be sent to WELS-Sports@open.ac.uk)

To download a copy of this flyer  click here

Conference: Competing in the Dark – Mental Health in Sport, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 21st March 2018

On Wednesday 21st March 2018 the Open University Sport and Fitness Team will be hosting their 3rd annual conference. This year’s conference will be exploring the contemporary issue of mental health in sport.

While top level athletes are often idolised and portrayed as figures of supreme physical and mental strength, more and more are speaking out about the mental health challenges they have faced. This conference seeks to raise awareness of mental health issues in sport and explore contemporary research in the field and strategies to support athletes.

Confirmed speakers

  • Olympic Gold Medallist (hockey) Helen Richardson-Walsh
  • Kitrina Douglas and David Carless (Leeds Beckett University)
  • Richard Bryan (Rugby Players’ Association)
  • Jessie Barr (University of Limerick)

Click here to view the conference booklet and programme

Registration

** Registration for the conference is now closed, but we are hoping to provide a live stream of keynote speakers for OU staff and students on the day here and we will share some videos from the conference on this blog after the event **

To register for the conference please complete the online registration form on the link below. Details on how to pay for the conference can be found here.

Online Registration Form

The delegate fees are listed below:

  • Standard = £110
  • Early bird = £100 (available up to Friday 12th January 2018)
  • Student = £50
  • OU Student = £20

(fee includes lunch and refreshments)

Oral and poster presentations

Academics, researchers, students and professionals are invited to submit abstracts for oral or poster presentations that relate to mental health in sport. We are particularly interested in submissions that relate to the negative impact of sport on mental health, rather than those that focus on sport and exercise as a strategy to improve mental health.

Please submit your abstract (maximum of 250 words) on the form below to:
WELS-Sports@open.ac.uk

Competing in the Dark Conference – Abstract Submission Form

  • Deadline for oral presentation abstracts = Friday 5th January 2018
  • Deadline for poster presentation abstracts = Sunday 4th February 2018

 

There is a prize worth £100 for the best poster presentation (sponsored by Switch the Play)

Advertising opportunities

Opportunities are available to advertise in the conference programme and abstracts booklet, which will be provided to all delegates. For more information on this please contact WELS-Sports@open.ac.uk

Conference updates

 

To keep up to date on conference developments please follow us on Twitter @OU_SportConf

Exercise: The miracle treatment for mental health?

By Caroline Heaney

Recent campaigns such as Heads Together have helped to raise awareness of mental health difficulties. Mental health issues affect everyone – it is estimated that 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem each year, which means that most of us will be affected by a mental health condition at some point in our lives, either directly or through someone close to us. It is vital that once someone has taken the difficult step to disclose mental health difficulties that they can access the right treatment and support, however, NHS funding for mental health services has been reduced whilst demand has increased. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 2 million adults with a mental health problem, and an NHS funding shortfall of £44-54 billion over the next decade. There are various treatment options available including therapies and medication, but medication is reported to be the most commonly used treatment for mental health problems. This comes at a huge cost to the NHS who reportedly spend £285 million per year on antidepressant medications. If only there was a low-cost treatment with few side effects and many additional health benefits. Well there is – exercise!

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Exercise has long been recognised as an effective intervention in both the prevention and treatment of mental health conditions. For example, in their meta-analysis of the literature exploring exercise in the treatment of depression Josefsson, Lindwall and Archer (2014), found exercise to be an effective treatment in those with mild and moderate depression, with the potential to be effective with those with more severe depression. Similarly, exercise has also been found to be an effective tool in the prevention of depression (Mammen and Faulkner, 2013). The simple logic behind the link between exercise and mental health is that exercise can make us feel better. This means that exercise can benefit your mental health whether or not you have a diagnosed mental health problem. As well as combating diagnosed mental health conditions such as depression, exercise can enhance mood and reduce stress levels, thus allowing us to tackle daily challenges in a more positive, optimistic and constructive way.

BBC 1’s Mind Over Marathon showed the power of exercise as it charted the experience of a group of people with mental health conditions as they prepared to run the 2017 London Marathon. The people in this programme were not unique in their experience of finding exercise therapeutic in their fight against mental health conditions. Up and down the country there are many people who are advocates for the beneficial role of exercise in preventing and treating mental health conditions. A few years ago I was lucky enough to meet a group of inspiring people in Essex who were referred to a Healthy Lifestyle Programme which involved prescribing exercise as part of a programme to tackle mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. A clear message from these participants was that exercise was a powerful tool in helping them to combat mental health challenges. They described exercise as a far more positive treatment than medication.

Potentially, exercise can be used to treat mental health problems in place of or in addition to medication and other therapies, but in order for patients to benefit, medical professionals need to be confident in its role as a treatment and have access to suitable programmes to which they can refer their patients. Data from the Mental Health Foundation suggests that whilst more than half of the GPs they surveyed recognised exercise as an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression, only 21% would actually refer a patient to a supervised exercise programme. This could however be due, in part, to a lack of access as 40% of the GPs surveyed said that they didn’t have access to an exercise referral scheme.

There lots of evidence to show that exercise can have a positive impact on mental health, but why is this the case? What is it about engaging in physical activity that leads to enhanced mental health? There is no one theory or hypothesis that has been universally accepted to explain the link between exercise and mental health. Instead, several different hypotheses have been proposed. These can be split into two categories: physical or psychological explanations (see table 1). It may be that a combination of factors is causes improvements in mental health, rather than one factor alone. Additionally, because people differ greatly, explanations for improvements in mental health may vary according to the individual concerned.

Table 1: Examples of physical and psychological explanations for the relationship between exercise and improved mental health (adapted from Weinberg and Gould, 2015)

Physiological Explanations Psychological Explanations
  • Increases in cerebral blood flow
  • Changes in brain neurotransmitters (e.g., norepinephrine, endorphins, serotonin)
  • Increases in maximal oxygen consumption and delivery of oxygen to cerebral tissues
  • Reductions in muscle tension
  • Structural changes in the brain
  • Enhanced feeling of control
  • Feeling of competency and self-efficacy
  • Positive social interactions
  • Improved self-concept and self-esteem
  • Opportunities for fun and enjoyment

 

Conclusion

It would appear that exercise can be a highly effective tool in the prevention and treatment of mental health conditions. Exercise is a comparatively low cost treatment that can be used on its own or as an adjunct therapy and has virtually no side effects. In addition, it can tackle many other health conditions such as hypertension and heart disease. Surely prescribing exercise to treat mental health is a no brainer!

To find out more on this topic try our free course Exercise and Mental Health.