General News:

ProActive Minds Project helps to support children and young people’s mental health


The ProActive Minds programme is a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and Sport Aberdeen, created to embed the principles of sport and exercise psychology within Aberdeen schools.

Sport and exercise psychologist Dr Ciara Reidy is the KTP Associate employed to drive the project forward, with her knowledge integrated throughout the existing work of the Active Schools team as well as more widely across every area of Sport Aberdeen.

Further details on initiatives taking place as part of the project are highlighted below.  

Active Schools Leadership Programme

The Active Schools Leadership Programme proved to be a transformative experience for the young participants involved, helping them develop personal growth and leadership skills.

Throughout the summer, approximately 12 young people per course, predominantly S3s and S4s, engaged in dynamic leadership courses at St Machar Academy, Northfield Academy, Bucksburn Academy and Hazlehead Primary School.

The programme began with an activity exploring fear, hopes and concerns, allowing the students to express apprehensions about making friends and more. Following the leadership activities, the programme integrated reflective sessions, providing the participants with notebooks to document their experiences, both good and bad. These notebooks served as a tangible reflection of their achievements, fostering a more developed understanding of their personal growth.

A symbolic Gingerbread person was used at the start and end of the notebook to show the progressive journey of each young person through the programme. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the young people highlights the programme’s success in nurturing leadership skills and instilling a sense of accomplishment and self-awareness.

Summer Holiday Camps

ProActive Minds holiday camps provide more than just physical activities for young children; they prioritise the mental well-being of participants through thoughtful initiatives.

During the school holidays, Sport Aberdeen runs a series of holiday camps for children and young people. The ProActive Minds project introduced daily mental health check-ins during a select number of holiday camps as a pilot to ensure each child’s emotional wellbeing was acknowledged.

During warm-ups and cool-downs, coaches conducted brief 5-minute wellbeing check-ins, opening up the dialogue an allowing the young people to feel comfortable when speaking about their feelings.

Emotion charts were also introduced at the holiday camps including creative elements such as name tags for children to identify and express their emotions. A3 sheets with vibrant characters provided a visual aid for emotional articulation. There were seven distinct emotions categorised by colour and the children were told to express their emotion by placing the tags on characters such as a minion or Stitch.

Emotion cards helped to stimulate conversations about feelings, emphasising the significance of behaviour as a form of communication. Coaches –serving as a reliable adult presence – became a safe space, fostering an environment where children felt comfortable expressing themselves. In dance camps and multi-sports activities alike, the focus extended beyond physical skills to encompass emotional well-being, creating a supportive and enriching experience for all young participants.

“Just Being” Mental Health Training

Another great example of work carried out by the ProActive Minds project was the “Just Being” mental health training programme, designed to create a person-centred, safe space for young people.

Active Schools Assistants and Project Activators working for the SPACE and community sport teams received the training initially across two days, with a focus on fostering an environment that encourages active listening, reflection, and empowerment of a young person’s voice.

The goal of Just Being is to eliminate barriers between coaches or support staff and the young people they are interacting with, showing the staff that all they need to do is simply be themselves and truly listen. By embracing this approach, those working with young people are equipped with the tools to create a supportive atmosphere that benefits not only the Active Schools Assistants and Project Activators, but also the young people they are helping.

Being Me Pilot

Another fantastic upcoming ProActive Minds pilot is called “Being Me”, dedicated to supporting young people in navigating the complexities of body image, aiming to reduce body dissatisfaction. In collaboration with Aberdeen City Council’s education department, the initiative will be piloted in selected schools who have been identified that could benefit from the support.

Employing a comprehensive full year group approach, Being Me will have a combination of full-class sessions and private tasks throughout the programme. The curriculum covers various aspects including body ideals, body comparison, appearance teasing and prejudice, with different themes addressed during group work sessions. The pre-intervention phase is crucial for understanding and combating the challenges faced by young people. The programme emphasises that there is no perfect standard and encourages students to focus on areas of positivity and what they like about themselves.

Through interactive activities including different games of physical activity, the initiative delves into the impact of social media and everyday life comparisons. Various examples including sport stars with diverse body types are highlighted to promote acceptance and appreciation. Homework assignments include identifying false glamour, encouraging continued learning beyond the programme’s duration.

With Active Schools Assistants delivering the programme across six schools, the “Being Me” initiative started in January for P5 and April for P6, aiming to instil lasting positive perspectives on body image.

If you would like to find out more about the ProActive Minds project, click here.