By: Lucy P.
When sport and recreation activities come to the forefront of the mind, first thoughts predominantly revolve around the physical advantages and disadvantages. However, mental health is something that cannot be ignored, specifically in relation to youth. In today’s generation, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem has increased dramatically in youth and adolescents. Perhaps this is due to the impossible stereotypical demands created by society, and the pressures of social media influences? As discussed in class, mental health is often overlooked in sports, for example, physiotherapists, athletic therapists, chiropractors, etc., are popular resources, rarely are there psychiatrists offered. A statistic taken from class material states, the total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is 3.2 million. With this being said, it is important to start recognising the solutions available to help youth of today overcome mental illness.
Fostering positive youth development in regards to mental health can be done through sports and recreation activities. A study by Hansen, Larson, and Dworkin states, youth in sports activities reported higher rates of self- knowledge, managing emotions, and physical skills experiences compared to youth in academic and leadership activities (Menestrel & Perkins, 2007). Unfortunately, the culture surrounding this generation lessens the focus of emotional and mental issues, however sports and recreational activities are proven to support positive effects, and is something that all youth can become a part of.
Both after-school recreational programs and organised sports can encourage positive mental health benefits, and these are opportunities that can be delivered to youth from a young age, in all social classes. As discussed in class, by improving mental health characteristics, such as, self-esteem, anxiety, depression and social skills, allows for building and developing life long skills that can be of use in everyday life. A study found participation in structured extracurricular activities was associated with higher life satisfaction among youth, and that the more structured activities youth participated in, the higher their life satisfaction (Fraser-Thomas, et al., 2005). This given, well-being and happiness has been a central component to a good life, which these findings furthermore prove sports and recreational activities help promote positive youth development.
I have participated in sports programs all my life, and there is no doubt that they have helped shape the person I am today. I was a very shy, quiet child, but sports allowed me to find myself in a comfortable setting. Still, to this day I learn and grow through sporting opportunities. In addition to this, I learned life skills such as social skills, self-esteem and dedication from a very young age. Continuously being surrounded by people who believe in you (e.g., peers, coaches) and a goal-setting environment, it becomes the norm to perpetuate self-belief as individuals. All of these positive outcomes for me came from regular activity, whether that was in an organized sport or an after-school recreation activity. From the journal Physical Activity and Mental Health, it was given, reinforcing events can enhance psychosocial rewards, for example, reduced feelings of depression and increased social support (Schomer & Drake, 2005). I don’t think anyone who has participated in sports and recreation can deny the positive developmental aspects they can bring. Furthermore, why not continue to promote these as a positive mechanism to battle mental health in youth and adolescents?
Moving forward, we must recognize that sports and recreation can be a building tool for youth and adolescents to help overcome mental health issues. The positive outcomes are fundamental to the development of a happy and healthy generation. At a conference on Sports-Based Youth Development, the most consistent message was, sports are an excellent medium to engage youth and foster positive youth development (Perkins & Noam, 2007). With such high statistics showing increased suicide, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, sports and recreation implementations could help improve some mental states. Therefore, all youth should have the opportunity to participate in sports and recreation activities.
Drake, S. B., Schomer. H. H. (2001). Physical activity and mental health. International
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Fraser-Thomas, L. J., Cote, J., & Deakin, J. (2005). Youth sports programs: an avenue to
foster positive youth development. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 10(1), p.24.
Menestrel, L. S., Perkins, F. D. (2007). An overview of how sports, out-of-school time,
and youth well-being can and do intersect. New Directions for Youth
Development, 115(10), p.16.
Noam, G. G., Perkins, F. D. (2007) Characteristics of sports-based youth development
programs. New Direction for Youth Development, 115(10), p.76.
Shannon-McCallum, C. (October. 19/15). Mental Health in Sport. (Lecture 15). University
of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB.