High profile figures from the world of sport and mental health will visit Edge Hill University this week to celebrate University Mental Health Day 2017.

Halifax rugby player Luke Amber, who founded #Andysmanclub following the death of his brother-in-law by suicide, will join State of Mind Sport, Everton in the Community and others for a special panel discussion this Thursday (2 March).

Embracing the theme of ‘Active Mental Health’ the University will host the panel and a number of events exploring the relationship between physical and mental health and how sport can help contribute to the understanding of mental health and assist in the prevention of suicide.

Third year student Tom O’Brien who is running a sports activity on the day said: “I used to be a former national hurdler and sport gave me something to focus on.

“Whether things were going well or if I’d had a bad day, I found that being active helped take my mind off things and had a positive impact on other parts of my life. Being active made me feel better and more optimistic about day-to-day problems.”

He added: “More recently through volunteering with the University’s Tackling the Blues programme, I’ve seen how sport can be used as a hook to get young people talking about their feelings and can help them deal with anxiety and low self-esteem.”

Representatives from Student Minds, Lancashire Sport, The Children’s Society, Age UK and others will also take part in the day offering advice and future employment opportunities to students.

Andy Smith, Professor of Sport and Physical Activity at Edge Hill University, said: “Mental illness is increasingly prevalent in society and successive surveys have indicated that conditions such as depression and anxiety are common among university students. Data from 2014 also suggested that 130 full-time students (aged 18 and above) died by suicide or undetermined intent in England and Wales.

We know that university students – and staff – are two at-risk groups of developing mental illness and we hope the day will draw attention to this increasingly important topic on campus, including through what can be learned about mental health from activities such as sport.”

Andy Smith

Andy Smith

He added: “I’m delighted that high profile figures such as Luke, State of Mind and Everton in the Community are visiting us on this important day so we can continue to raise the profile of mental health and help address the risk of suicide.

“Hosting Student Minds’ University Mental Health Day is another example of the University’s commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others through teaching, research and on campus support services. It also reaffirms the commitment Edge Hill has made to mental health promotion as one of only five universities to sign the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation, and as a signatory of the Time to Change pledge.”

University Mental Health Day (UMHD) is an annual event to promote the mental health of those who study and work in higher education settings organised by Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity.