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Sport in Mind

Transforming the lives of people experiencing mental health problems through sport

“Depression robbed me of a normal life for 10 years, but when I joined Sport in Mind’s sessions they gave me the chance to play sport again and feel ‘normal’. I’ve heard people say ‘playing sport changed my life’, but for me Sport in Mind didn't just change my life, they saved it!”   

Graham was one of over 6,000 people with mental health problems whose lives were transformed by the Sport in Mind programme that ran across the South East from 2019 to 2024.

A better life for people with mental health problems 

Sport in Mind, a multi-award-winning charity that works in partnership with NHS trusts, is one of the charities we funded to help people with health conditions improve their wellbeing and combat sedentary living.   

Each week, Sport in Mind’s programmes provide over 1,000 people with mental health problems (focussing on those with serious mental illness and long-term conditions) with supportive opportunities to play sport to improve their mental, physical and social health.  

"Like many people experiencing mental health problems, I found accessing mainstream physical activity provision hard, but when I was referred to Sport in Mind they gave me the opportunity to get active in a safe and supportive environment, where no one would judge me.

"Their sessions gave me the positive focus I needed in life and they are the primary reason I have been able to make a full recovery."

Anna, 43

With 91% of the people that engaged in the Sport in Mind project unable to access mainstream sports provision due to their mental health, the programme proved a crucial lifeline for the participants to stay active and help them on their recovery journeys.  

An older woman prepares to serve while playing badminton in a sports hall

Saving lives through sport 

"The truth is, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Sport in Mind’s programme," says Lucy, 23. 

Like many young people struggling with their mental health, Lucy felt alone and abandoned by society.

With suicide the biggest killer of all people under 35, and men under 50, Sport in Mind’s programme helped provide many people like Lucy with a safe space to be themselves, without fear of judgement, and offer them the positive focus in their lives which they were missing.

After accessing Sport in Mind for a year, Lucy’s symptoms of depression eased and she was able to rebuild her self-esteem, enabling her to return to full-time work. She now plays badminton and table tennis weekly for a local club. 

Watch a video about Sport in Mind

Inspiring positive futures 

"Sport in Mind helped me rebuild my self-esteem and reconnect with the person I once was," says Fatima, 31.  

"The charity has really transformed my life as a few years ago I was too terrified even to leave the house. Today I’m back in full-time work and living the life to the full."

A study of 1,023 adults on the Sport in Mind programmes highlighted that after six months:  

  • 94% had improved their levels of wellbeing; 
  • 86% displayed reduced levels of stress and anxiety;  
  • 82% had reduced symptoms of depression; 
  • 91% had improved levels of self-esteem /confidence and, importantly;
  • 84% had improved their physical health.

Creating nationally unique programmes

In 2013 our investment in Sport in Mind enabled the charity to launch a trailblazing programme where they worked with NHS healthcare professionals and people with lived experience of mental illness to co-design a person-centred sports delivery model for the benefit of people experiencing mental health problems (providing both inpatient and community services).

This delivery model, widely viewed today as a model of best practice for sports delivery for mental healthcare, has gained both national and international acclaim.  

Our investment in Sport in Mind to develop their nationally unique delivery model has meant in partnership with them we have been able to help transform the lives of over 23,000 adults, mums and their babies, and children and young people with mental health problems. 

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