First Fortnight has been part of the foundation of the Mental Health European Network of Sports (MENS), in 2017. MENS was a European project funded by Erasmus+. The overall goal was to promote voluntary activities in sport, together with social inclusion, equal opportunities and awareness of the importance of health-enhancing physical activity through equal access and participation in sport for all. We were one of 17 organisations across 12 countries who participated.

As part of First Fortnight’s involvement, we participated in the creation of sport events involving those experiencing mental ill health at a local / national level as part of the Sports For All movement and in making progress towards a European Mental Health Sport Event

One of the main objectives of the project was the development of 12 policy papers with the aim of providing a comprehensive and persuasive argument justifying the contribution of sports, physical activity, and exercise for the prevention, therapy, and rehabilitation of individuals with Mental Illness on the European continent.

The twelve policy papers were developed by the partners of this initiative to act as a decision-making tool and a call to action for the target audience. More specifically, the policy papers explore some of the evidence claiming that sports, exercise, and physical activity play an important role in terms of both preventing, as well as treating, mental health problems.

The MENS final conference was held on June 14th 2018 in Athens. We were delighted to attend and share the findings from our paper, titled “Mental Health and Stigma in Europe”, led and presented by our own Pauline Moloney. A recording of the presentation can be viewed here.

We are including the pdf for the policy papers here  and would encourage everyone to read it whether you have a sports or health background or neither!

The second meeting of MENS Project (Mental European Network of Sport Events) was successfully held on the 22nd and 23rd of June 2017 in Prague and resulted in the establishment of the European Network of Active Living for Mental Health (ENLAMH).

The core objectives of the project were:

  • Setting the foundation for established policies on the connection between the fields of Sport and Physical Exercise and Mental Health.
  • The realization of a European Awareness Campaign in order to motivate and sensitize the States, Local Authorities, Organizations which are active in both fields and also the General Public.
  • The foundation of a European Network which will serve the innovative conjunction of these fields.

After exploring the wider field of Mental Health, it was established that the existing procedures at a European or National level do not provide the necessary, specialized approach to sufficiently connect the benefits of Sport and Physical Exercise with Mental Health.

Thus the main goals of the Network were:

  • Enrichment of the therapeutic procedures of mental health services with positive use of sport and physical exercise for the users.
  • Strengthening of social cohesion by combating stigma of mentally unwell people.
  • Emerging of Sport and Physical Exercise as a fundamental parameter to the prevention of mental health problems
  • Support and realization of sport events and physical activities for Mental Health by its members
  • Contribution in research which aims to clarify and extend the connections between physical exercise and Mental Health.
  • Support the rights of the users of mental health services with means that stem from its mission
  • Promotion of policies which are connected between the fields of Sport and Physical Exercise and Mental Health at European/ National Levels.
  • Cooperation with other, specialized organizations which are active in the fields mentioned given the fact that only an integrated multidisciplinary holistic approach can deliver the necessary results in the field of Mental Health.
"Life is like a bike. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving"

Albert Einstein combines in one sentence the laws of Physics with a life attitude. Another source of inspiration for the holistic approach of Mental Health through an active living, through the use of the positive effect that sport and physical exercise have on our daily mood and mental balance.

A link that aimed to establish the five-month European Campaign “Life is like a bike” (February-June 2018) and was held in parallel in 12 European countries, as the main goal of the MENS Project. The “Life is Like a bike” campaign is based on the results of the European survey among organizations and individuals about their experience and opinions on the contribution of physical exercise and sport to mental health through specially designed questionnaires for sports organizations, mental health providers and the general population. The survey lasted two months (October-November 2017) and was completed with 2,656 participants from 12 European countries. Based on the survey data, a positive attitude towards the link between “sport / exercise and mental health” arises, but also a lack of motivation and of in-depth knowledge. Therefore, the “Life is Like a Bike” campaign acquired an informative but also encouraging character to provide valid information to those who have not yet adopted active living.

For more information on the MENS project and network, please click here.

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