This week is Children’s Mental Health Awareness week

This week (5-11 February), England Athletics will be marking the annual Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, an awareness event designed to empower and give a voice to all children and young people in the UK.

Now in its tenth year, the awareness week is co-ordinated by children and young people’s mental health charity Place2Be, which operates with the goal that no child or young person should face a mental health problem alone.

The charity estimates that 1 in 5 children and young people have a probable mental health condition, figures reflected in the rise in the data shared by NHS charity Young Minds, which charts a recent increase of 46% in urgent referrals among children and young people to mental health crisis teams.

Open letter to MPs

It was alarming figures such as these which prompted England Athletics and other athletics and running organisations to pen an open letter to MPs last October (to mark World Mental Health Day) to urge them to unlock the power of sport and physical activity to play a more meaningful role in tackling the growing mental health epidemic.

"Running and physical education should be treated for children and young people the same as English, maths and science."

England Athletics CEO, Chris Jones

As an organisation, we are determined to ensure both that athletics and running is utilised to the greatest possible extent to improve the mental health of children and young people, and that those children and young people within our sport are given comprehensive, thorough and exceptional support in this area.

All this week we will be sharing ways in which we are striving to make a difference.

Improving physical literacy

Our funetics programme is targeted predominantly at improving the physical literacy in communities throughout England with high levels of deprivation. Research shows that children living in such areas are more likely to develop mental health problems, which again points towards the link between physical health and mental wellbeing.

"The link between physical activity and mental wellbeing is well-established, but sadly, this has not translated into investment. funetics is designed to get our children active in a fun, inclusive environment, as a foundation for a lifetime of physical activity which will in turn help support positive mental wellbeing, decrease sedentary lifestyles, and promote happiness."

Tracey Francis, Participation Programmes Manager at England Athletics