Sport and activity on prescription to support our kids’ mental wellbeing

Sport and activity on prescription to support our kids’ mental wellbeing

In 2021 up to one in six children had a probable mental health condition. It’s even more concerning for adolescent girls aged between 17 and 19 where it’s estimated one in four have some sort of mental health challenge. Pretty alarming right? I know as a mum of two girls, it’s always on my mind and, just like you, I’m constantly questioning the right way to build their mental strength and take care of their emotional wellbeing.

That’s why I was so interested to read about the NHS’ ‘social prescribing’ scheme, where young people will now be prescribed dancing, surfing, rollerskating and gardening, to see whether taking part in sport, the arts and outdoor activities could reduce anxious and depressive feelings.

The NHS will first offer these activities to 600 11-18-year-olds, in 10 parts of England. The trial is being run by academics from University College London, and those involved will also be able to take part in music, sport and exercise and attend youth clubs.

If the trial is successful, and the participants feel less anxious, depressed and lonely, the scheme could then be rolled out across England, to help the thousands of young people on the waiting list for formal care. Dr Daisy Fancourt, the UCL mental health expert running the trial, says three in four young people see their mental health deteriorate during this time, while waiting for treatment.

‘Social prescribing has the potential to support young people while they wait, by providing access to a range of creative and social activities that could enhance their confidence, self-esteem and social support networks,’ adding that ‘social prescribing’ has ‘enormous potential,' she says.

If the trial does prove successful, experts plan to address these types of concerns, by assessing how much young people participate, how realistic it is to make these activities available and the costs involved. They will then decide whether this kind of ‘social prescribing’ is effective for young people.

Before now, this kind of scheme has only been tested on a very small scale, but participants did report a boost to their mental wellbeing, and a reduction in loneliness. I mean we know ourselves that physical activity makes us as adults feel better so it makes perfect sense.

Although I’m in Scotland and this is taking place in England, I’m still heartened by the concept. Regardless of whether it’s an official programme or not it just proves the importance of keeping our girls engaged in their chosen sport or activity.

Excerpts lifted from Women’s Health Magazine