Director of Positive Mental Health Scotland, Mark Fleming, shares his expertise to ASD members regarding mental health and well-being during COVID-19

Director of Positive Mental Health Scotland and Scottish Director of Sports Chaplaincy UK, Mark Fleming, shares his expertise to ASD members regarding mental health and well-being during COVID-19

Mark Fleming was joined in conversation by Stuart Swift and members of the ASD. The conversation highlighted the following key discussion points:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on mental health and personal well-being
  • Identifying signs and strategies to support positive mental health
  • The role of the chaplain in professional football

Mark began to highlight the impact of COVID-19, the change of structure and daily life on mental health and wellbeing alongside working towards the unknown. It is clear that during this period, we are faced with a risk of decreased level of concentration, focus and purpose. The impact of COVID on personal well-being and mental health, may not be easy to notice, especially through virtual meetings. Mark suggested the following signs that may impact an individual’s mental health:

  • Physical – Indications of changes in appetite (weight loss/gain), looking tired and drawn, or lack of care over appearance
  • Psychological – Loss of enjoyment, enthusiasm, energy, motivation
  • Emotional – Not able to regulate emotions (over-emotional or non-emotional)
  • Behavioural – Appearing disconnected and lost in thought, reckless, erratic
  • Verbal – Saying things that speak of hopelessness, despair and a bleak future or that they feel worthless or inexplicable, unusual, uncharacteristic changes in mood and behaviour. 

Mark discussed various strategies to support mental health especially during these times; which he described as ‘stress busters’, which included the importance of sleep, diet, exercise, laughter, positive relationships and gratitude. Good routines that include these promote positive mental well-being, alongside obvious physical benefits to an individual.

Mark raised the following questions to ASD members to reflect on their personal well-being:

  • Are you working within disciplined time-frames?
  • Are you spending time with people for whom you’re not responsible, with whom you can simply relax and have a laugh with?
  • Do you have people within your peer group who you can open up to about your own stress?
  • Are you taking time out to listen to music you find uplifting, inspiring and motivating?
  • Are you setting realistic, incremental, achievable goals?
  • Are you focusing on what you can control, rather on what you can’t?
  • Are you setting aside time for a day off?

Mark highlighted controlling these practical elements can facilitate the increase and release of essential neurotransmitters such as dopamine (the motivation molecule), serotonin (the happy hormone), oxytocin (the social bonding hormone) and endorphins (leading to a feeling of euphoria). These brain chemicals are essential for positive mental health.

The conversation continued to focus on the sporting director role and supporting others, suggesting the need to delegate the pastoral care of your staff, as not everyone may feel comfortable talking about their struggles to you, especially if they think that you will consider that their mental struggles will impair their performance. Similarly, Mark suggested the importance of focusing on your own mental well-being first before supporting others, whilst highlights the benefits of a chaplain to support the person. A chaplain can be a neutral sounding board for people at this time, particularly as they don’t have any decision-making capacity in their role. This is an under-utilised role in English professional football.

The ASD aims to support sporting directors in professional football. These conversations allow members to connect, share practice and develop ideas. The full conversation is available to ASD members. We are thankful to Mark Fleming and host Stuart Swift for a positive discussion. For more information around mental health and well-being, please contact Mark Fleming at mark@pmhscotland.co.uk.

Here is a link to the some resources Mark shared.

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