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World Mental Health Day 2023


Tuesday 10 October is World Mental Health Day. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that despite good mental health being vital to our overall health and wellbeing, one in eight people globally are living with mental health conditions. These impact an individual’s physical health, wellbeing and how they connect with others, as well as their livelihoods. Mental health conditions are also affecting an increased number of adolescents and young people in particular.

In line with WHO, the University of Birmingham is committed to ensuring mental health is valued, promoted and protected throughout its communities. We are part of the Government’s Mental Health Mission, designed to develop radical new treatments for mental health conditions and improve the outcomes and care for young people with mental health problems.

From a Sport & Fitness perspective specifically, we not only ensure that a number of our staff are Mental Health and Suicide First Aid trained, but also collectively endeavour to provide ample and varied opportunities for our students, staff and members to access support, and to participate in sport and fitness at any level to improve and/or maintain their overall wellbeing.

In honour of this year’s World Mental Health Day, we caught up with two of our in-house Performance Sport experts that specifically work with the University’s highest performing and elite student-athletes, to gather some guidance and insight to how we can best prioritise and take care of our own mental health this October and beyond, whilst also equipping us with the necessary skills to support those close to us that may, at times, need it.


Dr Sue Jones

University of Birmingham Sport Psychologist

Joanna Eley

University of Birmingham Sport Performance Lifestyle Lead

Sue Says...

“Throughout my work I apply a ‘Person First’ approach. A person’s chosen physical activity is just one piece of their story and identity. Maintaining a healthy relationship with sport is key to long term mental health and wellbeing, but sport rarely follows a linear path to success, so it’s important to focus on the process building, not just outcomes. The scales between performance and wellbeing can change very quickly, so the better you connect with someone’s story, the quicker you can react to those changes and empower them to notice these changes themselves.”

Jo Says...

“While the goal should ideally be to experience high mental health so that individuals can flourish, the majority of people actually just sit somewhere in the moderate mental health scale day-to-day and the main focus tends to be on not experiencing low mental health or mental illness. As a result of this focus, much of the support available tends to be reactive-geared and problem-focused, however the optimum mental health requires a much more proactive approach and an understanding of the different dimensions that can have an impact on your mental health. Being aware of what high mental health looks like for you, the strategies that support that and reducing the barriers to delivering those strategies is something I strive to support high performance individuals achieve.”

Sue and Jo's Top Tips

  1. Journal
    Recognise how you think and behave in positive times so that you can spot any changes in yourself and/or identify any certain triggers for future reference. Journalling is a good way to do this.
  2. Periods of non-ideal mental health are exactly the same as injuries and therefore should be treated as such. That mean you need to adapt your training or usual routine, in order to prioritise and recover.
  3. Be proactive
    Where possible, keep active, maintain balanced eating habits, maintain self-care and hygiene, regulate sleeping habits, be sociable – even in times when you don’t feel fully up to it, these will help to keep the brain and body healthy.
  4. Be self-compassionate
    If you’re finding something hard, it’s probably because it is hard! It’s much easier to process and move through your feeling if you can acknowledge and accept them.
  5. Build your system
    Slowly over time aim to build and maintain day-to-day/week-by-week processes that facilitate the best mental health outcomes for you. This will help you identify stressors and aid you in working how best to create boundaries and strategies that reduce these stressors that contribute to lower mental health.
  6. Talk to others
    The more you talk to others about general things, the easier it will be to seek support for the more difficult topics.
  7. Supporting others
    Practice empathy and validate their experience(s) by being willing to see their perspective, refraining from judgement, accepting how they are feeling and welcoming conversation.



To celebrate this year’s World Mental Health Day, Sport & Fitness will be running a FREE Stretch & Relaxation class, taking place 8:30-9:15am in the Dojo.


Bookable now via the Sport & Fitness app under ‘Classes’ and open to everyone in the midst of another busy week, we hope this provides the chance for you to take some well-deserved time for yourself.


Goal-setting with Joe, Fitness Instructor

Goal-Setting with Joe, Fitness Instructor

We caught up with Joe, who has been working full time as a gym supervisor at UoB since 2019. Joe was also a student, graduating in 2018 with a degree and masters in Sport Science! After spending time as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for professional Rugby, and competing in weightlifting- Joe has a diverse background when it comes to Sport, Fitness, and goal-setting.

Where do you suggest people start when setting their goals?

Identify what it is you want to do! Goals need to be personal and stem from internal motives and not external. External motives can work over a short period of time, however internal motives that focus on yourself often lead to the best long term success.

I think it also helps to determine what is defined as ‘success’ for you, which is completely different for each person. With social media comparisons, we tend to view success as what others are showcasing rather than what applies to our own situations.

For example, comparing yourself with an Olympic Champion weightlifter who has been in the sport from a young age, versus beginning at aged 23 isn’t a fair comparison. You can apply zone of proximal development to this – setting a goal or picking something that is just outside your current situation and within reach. 

Image of circle layers demonstrating zones of proximal development

What are your top tips for setting goals at the gym?


Follow the SMART principle:


Specific – give a real goal that’s tangible, for example I want to squat 100kg vs I want to squat more

Measurable – Can you measure your goal and make it tangible.

Attainable – Challenging but possible – zone of proximal development.

Realistic – Being honest with yourself or the fitness professional. Set a goal that you can realistically achieve, given your situation and time scale.

Time bound – put some form of deadline on it.

What do you think the benefits are to setting goals?


Goal setting provides structure and purpose to coming to the gym. It also gives you something to anchor onto. Normally when we set a goal, we naturally dial in other areas of our life too without realising. If the goal is weight loss, you may find you develop other skills too, like more creative cooking to help achieve that goal.

Depending on personality, some people enjoy structure and purpose. I personally am very routine orientated so I struggle to come to the gym if I don’t have a plan or something I’m working towards. Goals can also be anything – it doesn’t have to be a physical thing all the time, it could be simply trying to come 3x a week instead of 1x a week, or making a new social circle through classes.

Do you have any tips to help people to get motivated at the gym?

I think the strongest builder of motivation is achieving goals that you set, in turn that builds confidence and gives you a background of internal motivation you can use. You can set mini goals along the way to a larger goal that can work like checkpoints along the way. If you’re training for an endurance event and have 16 weeks to do so, having landmark goals at certain points that are realistic and can be achieved will keep the motivation going as you go through your training.


“Its working and you’re on track, keep going”.


You will also begin to see success from your own effort and that form of motivation is far better than anything else.

Is there any specific equipment/activity you would suggest starting with if you’re a beginner?


I recommend everyone, if possible, do some form of resistance training. There is a huge body of research (a lot from the School of SportExR at UoB) that shows how beneficial resistance training is to overall health ,and most importantly, healthy ageing.

If you are not sure where to start there are inductions, GGT classes for strength, and beginner specific sessions. If you want more of a personal touch, you can opt for a Personal Trainer in the gym.

Want to kick-start your goal-setting journey this year? Find out below how you can get more involved in Sport and Fitness with our membership options, and achieve your goals with our high-level facilities and fitness staff to guide you along the way!