Many of us might take sport or exercise for granted, while some of us – me included! – put it off as long as we can. Either way, participating in exercise and sport can make us feel better as individuals. Being active helps lift our mood and reduces stress, whatever we do. It’s easy to forget how important that is.
World Mental Health Day is an annual event. We need reminders like this to make us all aware of our mental wellbeing. Mental health problems are common and affect us all, whether we are affected ourselves or whether we care for others who’re affected. It’s taken time for our society to acknowledge that much. People in the public eye, such as Stephen Fry and Alastair Campbell, have been essential in opening up discussion.
Not everyone has the opportunity to speak openly about their background and experience, though. People have to feel confident about how they’ll be received, and the attitudes of others towards them. Stigma and ignorance are still associated with mental health problems, and isolation often follows stigma. Isolation can lead to loss of other supports.
But we don’t have to be in the public eye to make a difference. We can do something whether we’re employers, colleagues, at schools or colleges, or in the wider community.
At the Olympic Delivery Authority we work with a lot of employers and other partners. We promote changing the way employers acknowledge disabled people and include them in the workforce. We expect employers who work with us to look at their own recruitment practices as well as the cultures they promote. We expect people to be treated with respect in the workplace, and to treat each other with respect too. It’s good practice, but it’s also good for our collective mental health too.
That’s why I’m highlighting World Mental Health Day, which promotes awareness of mental disorders. We can use it to celebrate positive mental health, too. While we reflect on participation in sports and physical exercise, let’s make a mental note to pay attention to how we and others around us are feeling.
Hugh Sumner is the Olympic Delivery Authority’s Disability Champion.