General News:

New psychology programme - ProActive Minds - launched to help support children and young people’s mental health

  • GCU teams up with Sport Aberdeen to launch new ProActive Minds programme to help support children and young people’s mental health
  • Innovative new programme will see a sport and exercise psychologist supporting children and young people’s mental health through the Active Schools initiative
  • Programme has backing from The Wood Foundation, sportscotland, Aberdeen City Council Education Department and SAMH

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has teamed up with Sport Aberdeen to develop a new ProActive Minds programme, designed to promote mental and physical health in children and young people across the city.

To develop the ProActive Minds programme, GCU and Sport Aberdeen have secured Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) funding of £173,000 and will be recruiting a sport and exercise psychologist to become a KTP Associate and drive the project forward.

Charitable trust The Wood Foundation is funding Sport Aberdeen’s contribution towards the programme, and the programme has full backing from sportscotland, Aberdeen City Council’s Education Department and mental health charity Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

The two-year ProActive Minds programme, led by Sport Aberdeen and Dr Bryan McCann from GCU’s Department of Psychology, will embed a sport and exercise psychologist within the Active Schools team in Aberdeen.

The national agency for sport, sportscotland, works in partnership with all 32 local authorities to invest and support the Active Schools Network. GCU and Sport Aberdeen have ambitious plans to develop and research the ProActive Minds programme to be rolled out nationally.

Dr McCann, ProActive Minds project Knowledge Base Supervisor, will monitor the effectiveness of the project to support wider rollout, help develop resources and activities to upskill Sport Aberdeen staff, and support the new KTP Associate.

KTP is a government funded scheme designed to bring industry and world-class academia together. KTPs have been helping businesses innovate for growth since 1975. There are now around 800 businesses, 100 knowledge bases and over 800 graduates involved in KTPs.

Dr McCann, who is also a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist, and researcher and Senior Lecturer in the School of Health and Life Sciences, forged close links with Sport Aberdeen while lecturing at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

He led a range of award-winning projects including the Aberdeen Youth Games and the RGU GO: India initiative, and has given psychological support to Olympic and other high-profile sport athletes. He has worked closely with Sport Aberdeen and its Active Schools team for the past 10 years.

Dr McCann said: “There is an increasing need to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Physical activity is one way to do this. I feel strongly that sport and exercise psychologists are uniquely positioned to work in the overlapping space between physical activity and mental health, and that is where this project idea started.

“Sport Aberdeen is a charity and we put in the bid for funding based on there being lots of opportunities for Sport Aberdeen to increase its revenue.

“There are lots of societal benefits because if you have young people who are more active and have better mental health, there is a significant long-term cost saving to taxpayers in terms of health, education and social interaction.

“We need to employ a KTP Associate to develop the programme and through the KTP they will be able to develop their skills as well. The vast majority of KTP Associates end up being retained by the business as a staff member.

“Sport Aberdeen houses the Active Schools team. The Proactive Minds KTP Associate will be a qualified sport and exercise psychologist who will go in and work on the overlap between physical activity and mental health where we feel we can make a real contribution.

“There is a real opportunity here to develop the KTP in the future to have roles such as community sport and exercise psychologists across the whole Active Schools Network.

“Three prongs of the Proactive Minds programme are developing resources, upskilling staff and volunteers, and also giving one-to-one support for children and young people.

“At the end of the two years, there will be a Proactive Minds package of intervention that can be replicated in other areas or funded to be rolled out elsewhere.”

Graeme Dale, Head of Sport and Active Communities, said: “We are really excited to champion this innovative and unique ProActive Minds programme which is a first of its kind in the country.

“The programme presents a huge potential as it opens up a new avenue for working with sport and exercise psychologists so they can apply their skills and knowledge in an environment to benefit the mental health of children and young people who are in need.   

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, there is ample evidence which demonstrates the positive impact that regular participation in sport and physical activity has on improving mental health.

“Having the sport and exercise psychologist as part of the Active Schools team in Aberdeen will allow others in the organisation to be trained and learn from them. 

“We champion mental health at the core of our programmes, and we hope that there is the potential for this ProActive Minds programme to be rolled out nationally across other local authority areas if it is successful.”   

Ali MacLachlan, UK Director at The Wood Foundation, said: “We are interested in innovative, scalable solutions which seek to address some of the complex social challenges facing our communities.

“The Proactive Minds pilot has potential to deliver long-term transformational change in terms of young people’s health and wellbeing in the North-east, and, in time, be replicated nationally. We look forward to seeing how this develops and the positive impact it can deliver for children and families.”