Mental Health Awareness Week 2024: Meet four social entrepreneurs from our Movement for Change programme with Sport England

Barney Cullum

Communications Manager

14th May 2024



What is the purpose of exercise? Birmingham-based performers Romy Ashmore-Hills and Katie Evans have an answer that reflects an outlook shared by many of the social entrepreneurs receiving support through our Movement for Change programme with Sport England.

“We want to shift mindsets, to make exercise less about changing how our bodies look and more about moving in order to change how we feel.”

Katie struggled with disordered eating while studying. The experience motivated her to begin designing with Romy evidence-based workshops - now held at parties and school assemblies – in which the duo discuss and challenge unhealthy social media influences.

The venture conceived by the dance and drama graduates is called Hungry 2 Move. More than 650 young people have already been reached across the Midlands in the six months since they opened.

One primary school girl shared that she had been eating ice cubes instead of Doritos “because they're calorie free”, Romy recalls. “That is directly from a TikTok trend and diet culture.”

Romy is trained in mental health first aid, safeguarding, creative facilitation for young people and trauma informed practice, while Katie brings lived experience and nutritional expertise.

More than one in three girls and almost one in four boys report avoiding taking part in activities like physical education due to worries about their appearance, according to research cited by the Mental Health Foundation from ‘Be Real’ campaigners.

Hungry 2 Move conversations staged in settings ranging from nurseries to sixth form colleges are now dismantling harmful body image messaging prevalent on social media platforms.

“It's important for us to consult with body image and eating disorder therapists to have specialist knowledge informing our practice,” emphasises Romy. “This would not have been possible without support and funding from UnLtd’s Movement for Change programme with Sport England.”

Guardian Ballers is characteristic of all the Movement for Change social entrepreneurs we champion in that they bolster mental health all year round. This social enterprise uses basketball to bring the very young into a supportive environment before a mental illness or challenge risks establishing itself.

“If you are likely to have mental health problems, it will probably show up in some way between the ages of 10-25,” explains former PE teacher and international charity worker Kieran Joseph. “We want to step in to help before it starts.”

”Basketball is unisex, non-contact and inclusive. You are always involved because there are so many touches on the ball.”

Almost three thousand young people have taken part over the last two years, with almost nine in ten of those players sharing that Guardian Ballers had “positively impacted” their wellbeing and physical activity levels.

Financial barriers to participation have been overcome, with around one in three participants eligible for free school meals.

“The funding from UnLtd will help me to work on my Guardian Ballers business, not in it,” Kieran says. “It will help develop my staff and increase our capacity to improve our impact.”

Our Movement for Change programme supports social entrepreneurs bringing physical activity to older people too, including those who may be at risk of isolation or limited in their mobility.

Cricketqube’ has worked with more than a thousand people in the last two and a half years, fielding players from three-years-old right up to the grand old age of 104.

Its ‘backyard cricket’ modified version of the game has been embraced by older people, those with Parkinson’s, and South Asian and Black families.

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.

“Engaging with other people is probably the most crucial part of well-being,” says Cricketqube founder Alosh K Jose. “Care staff say our cricket is the highlight of the week, while participants tell us it helps connect with others.”

“Although there may be 100 people living in a care home there are not always many opportunities to actually engage with each other. “We have had instances where people have met at our sessions and now go on holidays together.”

Alosh grew up in India and wanted to bring the passion for playing cricket anywhere with anything that could pass for a bat back to the UK.

PlayCulture, another inclusive concept bolstered by the Movement for Change programme, delivers “real world games” for adults derived from childhood classics like Hide and Seek and Zombies. Physical and mental health is reinforced through active play. The app-based challenges provide social connection and get people exercising, often without the participants consciously experiencing it as such.

“We call it ‘sneaky fitness”, explains founder Ben Roper, “partly because those playing our games are trying to be stealthy, but also because you don't realise you're doing exercise.”

“We have had people accidentally run a 10k in a single evening who simply wouldn't have done that any other way because it doesn't enthuse them. You are not thinking, ‘Can I keep running’? You are thinking, ‘I need to get to that health pack for the next five minutes of play’.”

“It turns out that being pursued is extremely motivating!”

There’s certainly a thrill in the chase but Ben’s interventions are making a serious difference, in keeping with the overriding theme of this year’s mental health awareness campaign: ‘Movement - Moving more for our Mental Health’.

The Mental Health Foundation lead awareness raising each year. This week they are again encouraging us all to prioritise not just our own mental health, but the mental health of everyone around us.

There is encouragement to be found in the knowledge that the PlayCulture idea has already taken off around the world, from Singapore to Sweden.

Around 25 people attend each of the hundreds of events that PlayCulture has staged in the UK since the end of Covid lockdowns. More than 1,500 people have improved their fitness and levels of social connection since joining the PlayCulture Meetup group, with an active core of around 250 attending monthly.

Our Movement for Change social entrepreneurs are all on a journey to deliver and demonstrate the unlimited outcomes achieved through inclusive exercise.

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