National sports charity StreetGames has announced its latest campaign to support the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s disadvantaged young people. The #21by21 campaign will bring together representatives from across the sporting, business and policy-making sectors, in a new pledge to train 21,000 sports coaches and volunteers in mental health awareness by 2021.

As a recognised leader in the youth and community sports sectors, StreetGames understands the many pressures that affect the lives of young people, as well as the crucial role that a trusted adult can play in supporting young people, when properly trained to respond.

Sports coaches regularly report seeing the signs of emotional distress amongst young participants, but often feel they don’t have the skills or training required to step in. Others say the stigma around mental health remains a barrier to starting conversations and therefore prevents intervention.

As one coach in Greater Manchester commented: “It was really a ‘light bulb moment’ for me; I was delivering sport and having young people talk to me about self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety and depression. I realised I needed to know how to help and so signed up to a mental health first aid training course”.

Sport, when delivered in the right way, can have a marked positive impact on young people’s confidence, self-esteem and resilience – all powerful protective factors for their personal wellbeing. A coach who is ‘mental health aware’ can therefore do a great deal to maintain young people’s positive energy, even before stepping in to assist those who are struggling the most.

One of StreetGames’ participants said: “If I don’t feel great, I wouldn’t tell people because I don’t want to be judged. I just won’t say anything to anyone. But I’ve learned its OK to be not OK all the time. It makes a difference if you talk to people. It’s nice to feel that’s possible.”

StreetGames’ campaign for 21,000 sports coaches and community leaders to receive mental health awareness training by 2021 is sport’s contribution to the health and wellbeing of both current and future generations – a pledge to ensure sports coaches and community leaders are as confident in responding to issues of anxiety and mental distress as they are to a strain, sprain or other physical injury. And the organisation is off to a flying start: StreetGames has already trained 1,200 individuals in the last 24 months.

Of course, StreetGames can’t achieve this alone. If you have an interest in safeguarding vulnerable young people, and ending the stigma that exists around mental health, please contact StreetGames today and pledge your support to making mental health awareness as essential to a sports coach as physical first aid.

To learn more, or to register your support for this campaign, click below.

Support 21,000 by 2021