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A new £2m programme using sport to improve the lives of people with mental health problems will be launched in England next year (2015).

The first of its kind in size and scope, the initiative will be run in eight areas across England and is designed to help more than 75,000 people.

A partnership between Sport England and mental health charity Mind, the scheme will offer peer support groups, taster sessions and events to help people make sport part of their everyday lives.

People experiencing mental health problems who live in the eight areas will be able to join the sport and mental health programme through their local Mind. Sports coaches and providers will also be trained to better understand the challenges faced by people with mental health problems.

Mind will deliver the project after securing £1.5 million of National Lottery funding from Sport England. The charity has raised a further £514,000 towards the project from other sources.

The launch follows research which shows that exercise can reduce depression and anxiety by improving physical fitness, boosting confidence and helping combat low mood.

Mike Diaper, Sport England’s executive director community sport, said: “There is compelling evidence that participation in sport and physical activity has a positive influence on mental wellbeing and mental illness. This includes enhancing day-to-day moods, reducing the impact of stress and enhancing self-esteem.

“That’s why Sport England is committing National Lottery funding to this exciting and ground-breaking programme. Mind really understands the people it serves - and how to help them - which makes it an ideal partner. Sport has the power to improve lives in many ways and we’re confident that this programme will really benefit the people who take part in it.”

Mind will launch a national awareness-raising campaign to support the programme. A web-based service for people participating in its sport programme will be provided as part of the charity’s peer support network Elefriends, an online community for people who are experiencing mental health problems to give, and receive, support from others.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, added: “Structured physical activity programmes can play a key role in someone’s recovery from a mental health problem, and in staying well long term.

However, mental ill health in itself can create significant obstacles that prevent people from taking up sport in the first place. Feelings of low self-confidence, exhaustion or fear of crowded spaces can seem insurmountable when facing a mental health problem.

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A new £2m programme using sport to improve the lives of people with mental health problems will be launched in England next year (2015).
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