Mental Health Ambassadors
Following a successful pilot year, the Mental Health Ambassador programme will be returning in 2021/22. The programme aims 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
Students who were part of the programme in 2020/21 can sign up to a new Mentor role, supporting them to build on their leadership skills by mentoring new Ambassadors at their college. Mentors will have access to a new e-learning module to help them in their role.
We are advising colleges to recruit up to three Mental Health Ambassadors and a maximum of two Mentors, so that Ambassadors feel part of a team and get the nurturing and peer support they need to carry out the role. Each individual student can only be involved in one of our Ambassador programmes in 2021/22.
Benefits for Ambassadors
- Online and a regional training event 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
- Step 1 – To be involved colleges must be signed up to the AoC Sport Leadership Academy. To register your college, please complete this sign-up form.
- Step 2 – Colleges identify which Ambassador programmes they would like to be involved in (colleges can access multiple programmes)
- Step 3 – Colleges select up to three suitable Mental Health Ambassadors and two Ambassador Mentors. The Ambassador application window opens on 13 September 2021. (Larger colleges or colleges with numerous campuses can request further Ambassadors).
- Step 4 – College staff share registration form with successful Ambassadors
- Step 5 – Students register to the Mental Health Ambassador programme using the link provided by their college staff member. Registration for Ambassadors closes on 22 October 2021.
- Step 6 – Colleges confirm the names of their Ambassadors by 22 October 2021 by completing the form sent by AoC Sport staff.
- Step 7 – AoC Sport will contact colleges and students confirming Ambassadors and the next steps.
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.
Therefore, programmes like the Mental Health Ambassador scheme are more important than ever to support young people and promote physical activity as a key tool to improve their wellbeing.
We do of course recognise that the restrictions in place in colleges and communities and additional safety measures will alter how an ambassador might plan a suitable awareness campaign and interact with their peers.
Physical activity sessions at college may be operating in a reduced way and many of the adjustments that college staff are making during the pandemic response are suitable methods for this programme. These include 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 the confidence to carry out their roles and be effective.
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