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UEA tackles student mental health through exercise

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has received around £12,000 of national funding to expand its support for students with mental health conditions through sport and physical activity.

It was announced earlier this week that the funding has been awarded to UEA through British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) which was attained from Sport England, to support universities to develop projects that use physical activity to tackle mental health issues.  

The funding will enable UEA+sport to develop its exercise referral scheme, which sees students who receive support for their mental health and would benefit from accessing sport, gain access to the Sportspark on the UEA campus. The scheme has already been running for six months and has helped over 80 students so far.

A number of new initiatives will also be introduced, including further support during exam periods through “chill out or smash it out”  drop-in yoga and boxercise sessions. A buddy scheme to give extra support to students attending sport sessions, who may struggle with social or cognitive demands will also be launched.

A part-time member of staff will work with the university’s Student Support Services, the Students’ Union and UEA+sport to deliver these additional initiatives and to promote the benefits of physical activity for mental wellbeing.

Physical activity is thought to have a positive effect on wellbeing, with higher levels of activity associated with improved quality of life for people with conditions such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

There are also known social benefits of participating in group exercise such as increased confidence, motivation and social interaction which can help combat isolation.

These initiatives are in addition to the mental health support Student Support Services already provide, which include wellbeing advice sessions, resilience and wellbeing workshops and talking therapies.

Claire Pratt, Wellbeing Manager for UEA Student Support Services, said: “University can be a stressful time for many students, they are often living away from home, have less frequent access to their established support networks and can struggle with the social and academic demands.

“We take a holistic approach to helping people with their psychological wellbeing and for some students, keeping active can have really positive effects on their lives.

“We have already started to see positive changes in people who have been referred through the scheme, so being able to help more students to build their resilience will make a real difference.”

Ben Price, Assistant Director of Sport for UEA, said: “We bid for this funding against other universities across the country and we are really happy that BUCS and Sport England has confidence in our proposals.

“We also hope to reduce some of the stigma which still surrounds mental health and raise awareness of the benefits of physical activity for mental wellbeing.”