This week has been National Mental Health Awareness week. Brentwood Beagles Athletics club have spoken to the Havering Daily about their use of a mental health wellbeing ambassador to deal with specific mental health issues in the club.
‘COMPETITION ANXIETY, STRESS AND DEALING WITH THE PRESSURE OF HAVING TO BE THE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF ARE ALL TRAITS THAT CHALLENGE THE MENTAL WELLBEING OF MOST ATHLETES. TACKLING THIS CAN BE A REAL PROBLEM BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A LONELY PURSUIT. BBAC’S MENTAL WELLBEING AMBASSADOR WILL HELP WITH COUNSELLING, TECHNIQUES AND APPROACH’S TO ENHANCING MEMBER HEADSPACE WITHOUT JUDGEMENT OR STIGMA.’
From day one of the seed of an idea behind Brentwood Beagles, the founders wanted to focus on mental wellbeing of members. Too many stories of athletes and competitors who burn out, or struggle with anxiety, post-traumatic stress and performance related mental health issues and an overwhelming focus on competing on a timetabled basis all contributed to a view that there must be another way; a better way. Consequently, the club underlined their commitment to the mental well-being of their athletes by appointing Jennie Browning-Adams as its Mental Welfare Ambassador.
Elaine Forrest, Chair of BBAC said “We are truly privileged to have such a passionate person with great experience and knowledge to help the club establish a set of genuine values regarding the protection and enhancement of the mental health of all our athletes, volunteer staff and coaches alike.”
Much has been made of the mental health benefits of participation in grass roots sport but there is a gulf between simple participation and competition. BBAC acknowledge that what this means is that competing is not for everyone. For those who choose to compete at the club, they will be actively supported by a range of programmes designed to reduce anxiety and enhance a competitor’s headspace. What this means is that mental wellbeing is put front and centre at the club.
Jennie, who is a trained counsellor, knows from personal experience the importance of good mental wellbeing – “I make it a priority to focus on my state of mind on a daily basis – whether it’s getting out of the house and walking my dog or taking myself to a quiet place for ten minutes to focus on myself – I always find that the self-talk lifts my mood even when life is throwing tough challenges at me.”
Jennie is a pivotal member of the team at Brentwood Beagles and her contribution ensures that the club creates a genuine and thoughtful balance betweenmental and physical well-being. Maintaining this at the heart of all club activities is a cornerstone of the BBAC way. For example, all members can be part of the club simply for fitness reasons or to support their other sporting pursuits; they can attend sessions as and when suits them and there is no pressure on any member to compete for the club unless they choose to.
Jennie continued, “Sport is meant to be fun for everybody – whether you are a five-year-old doing something for the first time or a competitive athlete looking to compete on the international stage, if it isn’t fun and it doesn’t make you happy, you won’t want to do it and you definitely won’t perform at your best.” Jennie actively promotes well-being resources that are available to support athletes and their families and offers in person support, be that through the England Athletics Run (or Walk) and Talk programme or through counselling that will be available to all members of the club.
Since formally launching on the 1st May, some 50 plus members have signed up. We already have a number of members who self-identify as being in the category where mental health is a primary concern for whatever reason. Jennie’s work with the club will be key to ensuring that such members are able to get all they want from the club whilst getting all the benefits the sport has to offer whilst managing whatever mental health issues they face.