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Sports stars help level the playing field for people with mental illness

8th October 2009

Frank Bruno launches Levelling the Playing Field today ahead of World Mental Health Day (Saturday 10 October), a new report from Time to Change that applauds five sportspeople who have bravely spoken out about their experiences of mental health. It comes as 30,000 people around the country take part in hundreds of Time to Change Get Moving events to get active and learn more about mental illness.

The boxing hero is joined in backing the report by two other sporting legends footballer Tony Adams and cricketer Marcus Trescothick. They have both overcome the stigma that surrounds mental illness and by speaking out have helped change public attitudes and improve the lives of the 1 in 4 people who experience mental distress.

Time to Change recently found that 85% of people think sports stars with mental illness set a good example. When icons such as Dame Kelly Holmes and snooker 'genius' Ronnie O'Sullivan opened up about their feeling of mental distress, their admirable candour helped to show the public that it can and does happen to anyone and is nothing that needs to be kept a secret.

However, there is still a great distance left to run. Time to Change also found that only 26% would be happy to let their child be coached by someone with a mental health problem. Explain this to Dame Kelly Holmes, who has admitted to self-harming in the past and now runs a coaching scheme for young people to help them on their road to athletic success.

Tony Adams said "This Time to Change report will help everyone understand that mental health problems are common and can affect anyone, no matter their age, wealth or success. From premier league footballers to Sunday pub team players, mental illness does not discriminate. Mental health problems are often exacerbated by the fear of how people may react and how you will be judged. This leads people to keep their experiences to themselves and to make excuses to cover their problems up. We can challenge discrimination by putting a spotlight on mental health and bringing it into everyday conversation. By being open, you can help others to do the same."

Marcus Trescothick said "It can be a huge and extremely difficult step to actually admit that you might be suffering from what is commonly known as mental illness. Until I learned from first-hand experience, if someone in the dressing room complained of being depressed my initial reaction would be the words: 'Cheer up', swiftly followed by 'Pull yourself together'. I'm supporting this report to help people to understand they are not alone, that how they are feeling is not a sign of weakness or failure and nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of."

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change said: "Mental health is society's last great taboo.  Sport stars who help us to bring it into the public domain have completed their most challenging task.  For many even telling friends and families is difficult, but these people have played out their experiences on a huge stage.  Their role in the race for equality has been invaluable and we hope others can be encouraged to take the baton.  The battle against stigma is a marathon, not a sprint."

Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign led by Mind and Rethink and funded by £16million from Big Lottery Fund and £4million from Comic Relief, has been set up to create a positive shift in public attitudes towards mental health problems. It promotes understanding by encouraging people to meet with others with differing experiences of mental health in order to get mental illness out of the closet. Every October it holds Get Moving, a week of physical activity events to encourage everyone to socialise and be educated about mental health while getting active for better mental wellbeing.

 

 

Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end the discrimination faced by people with mental health problems, and improve the nation's wellbeing.  Mind and Rethink are leading the programme, funded with £16m from the Big Lottery Fund and £4m from Comic Relief, and evaluated by the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London. For further information go to www.time-to-change.org.uk 

 

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