Keep active to keep your mind healthy

Keep active to keep your mind healthy

**Press release issued by Sport Northern Ireland**

Did you know that at least one in five adults in Northern Ireland may suffer from some form of mental health disorder in any year, and that one in four people in Northern Ireland are likely to experience depression?

These statistics prompted Sport Northern Ireland to launch Active People: Healthy Minds, a factsheet endorsed by the Public Health Agency (PHA), designed to promote the mental health benefits of being active.

Being physically active is a key element of living a longer, healthier and happier life. Staying active can help you keep your body and mind healthy and provide you with valuable opportunities for socialising with friends and meeting new people.

While regular participation in sport and physical activity help reduce your risk of physical diseases such as obesity, coronary heart disease and stroke, being active can also promote good mental health by:

  • Improving your mood
  • Enhancing your sense of well-being
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Combating negative emotions
  • Improving self-esteem, body image and confidence and
  • Protecting against depression

Sport Northern Ireland’s lottery funded initiative ‘Active Communities’ is designed to give people sporting and physical activity opportunities, with over 100 coaches and leaders working in communities, across a wide range of activities.

This April Mental Health First Aid Training is being provided to the Active Communities Coaches. The training helps the coaches recognise the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and teaches them how to provide initial help and how to guide someone towards appropriate professional help.

Mental Health Training is delivered through the Public Health Agency. Deirdre McNamee, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Senior Officer, PHA, explained: "This training is being rolled out across Northern Ireland, to improve people's understanding of mental health issues and to help address public attitudes, reduce stigma and increases help seeking behaviour.

"We welcome these newly trained sports coaches, who can now support the mental wellbeing, as well as the physical fitness, of those they work with. The Active People: Healthy Minds fact sheet is also a great resource, providing useful information, examples and advice on how to get, and keep, active.“

Linsey McKeown, Active Communities Physical Activity Leader with the Belfast consortia said: “we know that there is stigma around mental health problems which can prevent people asking for help. I now feel confident to recognise symptoms and be able to offer help.”

Eamonn McCartan , Chief Executive of Sport Northern Ireland commented,  “Sport Northern Ireland are pleased to be working in partnership with the Public Health Agency as part of its commitment to implementing the Charter for Enhancing Public Health through sport and physical activity. The agency’s knowledge of promoting good mental health coupled with the skills of the Active Community coaches will enable individuals within communities to be signposted to any of the available support services”.

The Active People: Healthy Minds factsheet is available to download from

Anyone who is concerned about depression should speak to their GP or other health professional, for more information visit www.mindingyourhead.

If you or someone you are concerned about is in distress, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 for confidential support services and advice. This is a free helpline service available 24/7. You can also access their website,”

Further information

Further information Contact PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.

Notes to the editor

Photo caption: Pictured at the Public Health Agency (PHA) First Aid Training Day at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre are John News, Participation Manager Sport Northern Ireland; Active Communities Coach Linsey McKeown and Deirdre McNamee, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Senior Officer, PHA.

  • As a minimum we should aim for 30 minutes physical activity a day, at least 5 days a week. No matter what activity you choose, it can be done all at once, or divided into two or three parts during the day with as little as 10 minutes of activity counting toward your total.