Content Warning: This article includes discussion of mental health and suicide.
Sophie Dodd, a third year Spanish and French student at the University of Stirling, has decided to relaunch her community interest company which focuses on mental health in sport. Sophie spoke to Brig ahead of the relaunch on Sunday 28th February 2021.
Brig: Why did you decide to set up a community interest company relating to mental health in sport?
“As a young swimmer, I battled depression and anxiety and I saw the huge stigma that there is in sport around mental health. My coach at the time was very new to coaching and had only been coaching a year at the time that I was coming to him with my struggles with panic attacks and suicidal ideation.
“As a young and inexperienced coach this would have been daunting, but to think that this would have been without any training in mental health, I can only imagine how terrifying that situation must have been. Coaches receive no training in mental health in their coaching qualifications and it is rarely provided by the governing bodies and they need the support and training just as much as athletes.”
Dodd started a YouTube campaign to give athletes a space to talk about their experiences relating to mental health which then expanded, but she recognised: “It wasn’t providing a solution to the problem. It wasn’t enough to tell governing bodies that there is a problem, they need to be pointed to the solution.”
Although conversations around mental health of athletes and sporting professionals are becoming more common, Dodd says:
“It’s usually after an athlete has retired. This to me still suggests a huge stigma is still very much present around not wanting to look weak and this needs to change.”
Brig: What can we expect from the relaunch?
“Bringing a new face to the company. We have made the website look more professional while making it more user friendly. It’s also a lot clearer the services we offer, what those services are and how to access them.
“People can now expect mental health tips, experiences and encouragement from our revived look. There is no doubt in my mind that this will provide more support for our followers and generate more interest for donations.”
Dodd set up the community interest company during lockdown in March 2020, something which she describes as “very challenging” but says its provided opportunities such as “coaches looking for development opportunities. They wanted to use the time to develop and grow which was amazing. We worked with sports clubs to help share mental health awareness which I don’t think would have been possible without lockdown.”
The community interest company is able to provide training opportunities to coaches, clubs and governing bodies in the form of seminars which can be arranged through a message on the social media pages or via email.
“We have a mental health mentor who has experience both as a mentor but also in sport. This was important to me. I didn’t want a mentor who didn’t understand the demands that sport has. This service provides an athlete or a coach an unbiased person to talk to. To me, athletes and coaches need to have someone to be able to talk to irrespective of if they struggle with their mental health.
“Now, more than ever, people feel they need someone to talk to and the sporting world can be an isolating place. The seminars are able to be tailored to the needs of an individual or a group. In the past, I have given seminars on my experiences as an athlete, self-harm awareness, anxiety management tips and many others. They can be delivered to a group of athletes or coaching staff at a club but they really can be tailored. Usually, these are tailored to the needs of the group or individual.”
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Featured image credit: Mental Health in Sport CIC