October 2020

Belgravia Leisure

What we did

Recognising several years ago the ‘tsunami’ of mental illness impacting the community and sport and physical activity sectors, Belgravia Leisure and Belgravia Foundation initiated a strategy to support staff and community mental health.

From mid-2019, our organisations trialled Mental Health First Aid training for leisure-sector staff, with 5 leisure centres developing the capacity to respond during every hour open to patrons with this need; coverage approaching ~2million annually prior to COVID-19. Based on trial success, Belgravia Leisure approved in February 2020 a project to train 1,100 staff in MHFA, which will provide support for over 20million visitors to venues under operation.

In response to COVID-19, support for the mental health of 4,500+ staff, with direct carryover to their families, acquaintances and local communities, multiple rolling campaigns to inform, train and support staff to manage their own and others mental health have occurred.

During March-June, ‘Staying Connected’ circulars providing mental health advice were distributed to staff to provide information, education and supports related to mental health.

Commencing in late July, a UK Mental Health Awareness (MHA) training program was promoted, resulting in 887+ staff completing the 2-hour training and evaluation to date.

In mid-August, a Live Stream event hosted by the Belgravia Leisure CEO was viewed by an estimated 300+ staff. The event focussed on mental health and featured three staff relating how they were caring for themselves and others.

Evidence from the MHA evaluation revealed staff felt less sure on how to support others regarding mental health. A Peer Support (PS) training program was rapidly developed embracing R U OK? strategies of peer support, field tested, refined and launched organisation-wide to coincide with R U OK? day, with 161 completions within 24 hours. To promote uptake and foster cross-promotion of the PS program, two organisation-wide broadcasts occurred generating 315+ viewers.

Why we did it

Nationally, mental illness (MI) is the most common reason people visit a GP, and has been for approaching 3 years. This epidemic of mental illness has become so pervasive that most people in Australia have had a family member or acquaintance afflicted by this ailment. This includes people who work, volunteer and participate in the sport and physical activity sectors.

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the Arts and Recreation sector (i.e. sport, leisure, fitness, aquatics) dramatically impacted through closures, job losses, salary reductions, concerns about the future, isolation and reduced contact and support with others, and people connected with these sectors now experiencing substantial MI.

Recognising several years ago the 'tsunami’ of MI impacting Australia, Belgravia Leisure developed, and had reviewed and endorsed by leading national sport and inclusion organisations, a 5-year strategic commitment to access and inclusion in mid-2018, inclusive of actions related to mental health. Likewise, Belgravia Foundation commenced leisure-sector related supports linked to MI via Take Charge.

In response to COVID-19, support to staff mental health, with direct carryover to their families, acquaintances and the community, was implemented through multiple rolling campaigns to inform, train and support staff to manage their own and others mental health been undertaken.

How we know it worked

Evaluation data confirms the extensive reach of the ‘Staying Connected’ circulars, CEO Live Stream broadcast, Staff Engagement broadcast featuring the Peer Support program, and Venue Manager briefings.

Systematic pre-post evaluation of the Mental Health Awareness (MHA) and Peer Support (PS) programs is ongoing, with compelling results below. The MHA data identified a need for the PS program. Combined, these evaluations underscore the positive impact of this training on staff knowledge, awareness, understanding, strategies and confidence to support their own, and others mental health.

In support of the leisure, sport and fitness sectors, Belgravia Foundation is providing links to the MHA program and evaluation surveys for others to measure the impact of similar mental health campaigns. Supplementary communication via social media platforms linking contacts of Belgravia Leisure, Belgravia Foundation and key staff to the community and leisure, sport, and fitness sectors has greatly increased the reach and impact of this campaign.

Mental Health Awareness Program