Within this article, we will highlight the importance of talking about mental health and why people should be open to talking about it.
We will explore how talking about mental health can help maintain wellbeing, break the stigma and possibly reduce suicide rates in England and the UK. Additionally, we will emphasise why fitness instructors and coaches should feel comfortable enough to discuss mental health with clients who are showing signs of problems, in order to establish further professional support if necessary.
#1 Maintains Mental Wellbeing
From time to time, many people will experience bouts of depression and anxiety to some degree. Although these conditions may not always be classified as serious mental illnesses, they are extremely prevalent in England. In fact, a survey study by McManus and colleagues (1) found that 1 in 4 people are affected by general mental health problems each year.
These mental health problems can cause a variety of unwanted bodily sensations, intrusive negative thoughts and a lowered mood (2).
Talking to a professional can improve mental health in itself or possibly open a discussion about adopting healthy mental wellbeing habits i.e., goal setting, exercise and maintaining a social life to boost ‘happy hormones’ (2).
#2 Breaks The Mental Health Stigma
Truth be told, there is a stigma attached to mental health. As a society, we tend to have a preconceived notion of mental health issues being a sign of weakness, thereby many may suffer in silence without seeking support (3).
It is crucial that we spread awareness about mental health to the public eye, highlighting that there is support available and there is no shame in seeking it. In turn, this may break the mental health stigma, encouraging those suffering to be more open to talking to friends, family and other professionals.
#3 Lowers The Risk of Suicide
According to the UK Office of National Statistics, an unfortunate 2562 deaths occurred as a result of suicide, with a direct correlation to mental health in the year 2021. For this reason, we can not stress the importance of talking about mental health in order to identify an appropriate treatment in time.
Fitness Instructors And Coaches Should Ask The Question
Being a fitness instructor or coach may put you at the forefront to interact with clients who are experiencing mental health problems.
Therefore, if you notice any changes in a client’s mood, exercise enthusiasm, energy level or overall characteristics, you should feel comfortable sitting the client down and discussing mental health. Ensure that you utilise a friendly and welcoming tone of voice so that your clients are open to talking, be empathetic and ask openly whether they feel their mental wellbeing is being impacted.
Once you have established that the client is experiencing mental health problems, provide assurance that they are not alone and there is help available.
You should recommend the client to contact their GP who can prescribe medication if needed and signpost them to external services with expertise in mental health I.e. MIND
The external service will then assess the patient to determine the severity of the mental health problem via consultations/questionnaires and then determine the intensity and type of therapy required, for example, low-intensity CBT for anticipatory anxiety.
As fitness instructors or coaches, you should never undervalue the power that your words possess, from simply just ‘asking the question’ you could help individuals get the support to improve their quality of life or even prevent suicide.
We have established that it is crucial to talk about mental health in order to maintain mental wellbeing. Not to mention bring awareness to the issue to break the mental health stigma and encourage people to seek help. Moreover, talking about mental health issues may help establish a treatment that may reduce suicide rates. A final message to fitness instructors and coaches, DO NOT hesitate to discuss mental health with clients that show signs of mental health problems, you could potentially help improve the quality of someone’s life.
- McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., et al. Adult psychiatric morbidity in England: Results of a household survey. Health and Social Care Information Centre. 2009
- Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M, et al. Exercise and Mental health. Maturitas. 2021;106 (1):48-56
- Heginbotham, C. UK mental health policy can alter the stigma of mental illness. The Lancet. 1998; 352 (9133): 1052-1053