Mental Health Ambassadors
The Mental Health Ambassador programme is new for 2021/21 and has been developed in partnership with Mind to promote the physical activity benefits on mental health and wellbeing and to support students experiencing mental health problems to become more active.
With 50% of mental health problems established by age 14 and 75% by age 24, colleges are integral in supporting students to look after their mental health and wellbeing and help them form good habits for life.
Colleges signing up to the Mental Health Ambassador programme must be able to fully support their Ambassadors in their role. As part of their training each Ambassador will create their own wellbeing action plan which should be reviewed and discussed with a college member of staff.
Therefore, a college must be able to name a suitably trained member of staff to safeguard the wellbeing of each individual Ambassador. This member of staff should be:
- A mental health professional or a member of staff trained in mental health first aid or mental health awareness.
- Confident in discussing mental wellbeing with students.
- Able to review and provide feedback on an Ambassador’s personal wellness action plan.
- Able to signpost an Ambassador to suitable support service if they need it.
What’s expected of an Ambassador
- To promote the benefits of physical activity on mental health
- To support and encourage students experiencing mental health problems to be more active
- Not to make assumptions
What’s not expected of an Ambassador
- Not there to solve problems, diagnose problems or offer medical advice
- Not to prescribe activity
- Not be a mental health expert
Benefits for Ambassadors
- An e-learning package, supported by Mind the mental health charity, to provide you with the knowledge and confidence needed to be a Mental Health Ambassador
- An improved awareness about the five ways to wellbeing movement
- Support to create your own wellbeing action plan
- Develop key personal and employability skills such as verbal communication and empathy.
Benefits for colleges
- Develop a volunteer workforce to better promote provision for students experiencing mental health problems.
- Improved promotion of local physical activity sessions to students
- Personal and employability skills developed in Ambassadors
- A better on-campus awareness of the five ways to wellbeing movement
How to get involved
The college application process opens on Wednesday 23 September and will close at 5pm on Friday 13 November.
Please follow this process:
- Step 1 – Colleges must sign up to the Leadership Academy to be involved in the Mental Health Ambassador programme. To register your college, please complete this sign-up form.
- Step 2 – Colleges should identify specific students who would be suitable for the Mental Health Ambassador role. Please note this is limited to 5 students per college, however larger colleges or colleges with numerous campuses can request further Ambassadors.
- Step 3 – Once colleges have selected their Mental Health Ambassadors, the names and contact email addresses should be passed to the college Leadership Academy lead who will then email each student the link to our Ambassador registration form for each of them to complete.
- Step 4 – Students should then register to the Mental Health Ambassador programme using the link provided by their college Leadership Academy staff lead
- Step 5 – AoC Sport will contact colleges and students confirming Ambassadors and the next steps
We are advising colleges to recruit a maximum of five Mental Health Ambassadors so that Ambassadors feel part of a team and get the nurturing and peer support they need to carry out the role. A named college member of staff will have oversight of the Ambassadors, their action plan and the activities they carry out. This member of staff may need to support the coordination of Ambassador activities across different departments and campuses.
Ambassadors can and should come from a wide range of backgrounds and courses and don’t need to have lived experience of mental health problems. Those who do have lived experience of mental health problems may find it helps them in their role.
It is up to you how to select your Ambassadors but we do know from similar schemes that some kind of recruitment and selection process is useful to ensure volunteers and staff have a full understanding of the Ambassador role.
Support for colleges
AoC Sport staff can support college staff to deliver the Ambassador programme, talk about Ambassadors, upskill a member of staff, or offer help in supporting your staff or students’ mental health. We can use our links with national and local Mind teams or you can find your local Mind office using the Mind directory.
Being an Ambassador during the COVID-19 pandemic
According to a recent Mind survey, 68% of children and young people said their mental health has got worse during the COVID-19 outbreak and more than half of them thought it was because they couldn’t play sport or exercise as they normally would.
Programmes like Mental Health Ambassadors are therefore more important than ever to support young people and promote physical activity as a key tool to improve their wellbeing. We do recognise that the restrictions in place in colleges and communities will alter how an Ambassador might plan a suitable awareness campaign and interact with their peers.
Students may not be able to mix outside their bubbles, physical activity sessions at college may be operating in a reduced way and students and staff may find themselves affected by further local lockdown conditions.
Many of the adjustments that college staff are making during the pandemic response are suitable methods for this programme including the use of online meetings and sessions, the use of social distancing and the reduction in face-to-face delivery. This topic will be discussed in the Ambassador training to ensure that they have confidence to carry out their roles and be effective.