Ignite Sport > News and Blogs > Andy Francis Attends Oxfordshire Youth in Mind Conference: How Sport and Activity Support Our Mental Health

Mental health has rightfully gained increasing attention as a mainstream issue in recent years. Since the pandemic, this has continued witha particular focus on the mental wellbeing of children and young people.
Schools, charities, and sports organisations are actively seeking ways to address this issue.

In this blog, Andy Francis, Active Communities Manager at Ignite Sport, shares his experience at the Oxfordshire Youth in Mind Conference 2023 and highlights how Ignite Sport can contribute to improving mental health outcomes in Oxfordshire.


The Youth in Mind Conference provided a valuable opportunity to reflect on the positive impact organisations like Ignite can have on the mental health of young people in the county. The conference featured keynote speakers such as Dr. Sarah Hughes, CEO of Mind, Paul James, CEO of the River Learning Trust, and Dr. Anisa-Ree Moses, an Educational and Child Psychologist at Learning & Wellbeing Psychology, who covered a wide range of topics.

However, the most striking statistic that resonated with me was the fact that 1 in 5 children will experience a mental health disorder in a given year. This sobering fact serves as a powerful reminder of why I was attending the conference and highlighted the responsibility we bear as an organisation working with children and young people.

Among the workshops I was lucky to attend on the day, three in particular caught my attention as relevant to Ignite’s work:

Tackling Exam Stress with Active Oxfordshire:

This workshop focused on managing exam stress in children and young people, with many ideas relevant to Ignite’s work, including the importance of nutrition, self-care and, of course, the stress-busting effects of sport and physical activity.

Reframing the Person-Centred Approach to Mental Health with RESPONSE:

This workshop shed light on the importance of adopting a person-centred approach when addressing mental health issues. It emphasised the need to consider the individual's unique circumstances, experiences and preferences to provide effective support.

Working with Refugees Suffering from Complex PTSD with Refugee Resource:

This workshop highlighted the challenges faced by refugees dealing with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD) and explored ways to support their mental health through sports and activities.
This is of course relevant to Ignite as we work with refugee children as part of our Holiday, Activities and Food (HAF) camps.

Working in partnership

Ignite Sport is in a privileged position as a sports activity provider to contribute significantly to tackling this important problem. Physical activity and the sense of belonging fostered through participation in sports are crucial elements in addressing stress and improving the health and wellbeing of young people. Placing mental health awareness at
the core of our safeguarding strategy and learning to spot the signs of mental health disorders in children should be a top priority.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that this work cannot be accomplished in isolation. No single organisation, whether it be a school, a sports club, or a charity, has the time, resources, or expertise to address children's mental health challenges on their own. It is a shared responsibility everyone working with children in Oxfordshire, and Ignite has
the potential to make a real difference.

Collaboration and partnerships are key. By working together with schools, mental health professionals, and other stakeholders, Ignite Sport can develop comprehensive programmes and initiatives that provide effective support to young people's mental well-being. Through partnerships with organisations like Active Oxfordshire, RESPONSE, and Refugee Resource, we can create a network of support that addresses various mental health challenges faced by young people in Oxfordshire.

Ignite’s role

The Oxfordshire Youth in Mind Conference 2023 was a valuable and informative experience for me, emphasising the urgent need to prioritise
mental health support for children and young people.

Alongside likeminded organisations in the county, we can help build a holistic approach and signpost children and their families to get them the best support.

Ignite recognises the vital role it can play in improving mental health outcomes through sports and activities and make a difference to
the children that form such an important part of our work.

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