The Hon. Graham Annesley MP
NSW Minister for Sport & Recreation
at the MHSN Launch - 29 April 2011
A historic handover took place in November 2010 when the Mental Health Sports Association Committee met with Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW Inc to formally agree that the Association would become the Network, under the auspices of the Schizophrenia Fellowship.
The Mental Health Sports Association has a proud 18 year history of providing sporting activities for people with mental illness all around NSW. The Association decided at the 2009 AGM to ask the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW to take over the running of the Association’s activities. The transition to the Network will see the next stage of growth and increased opportunities for sporting and physical activity participation.
The Mental Health Sports Association (MHSA) was established in 1993 by people working with, and those experiencing mental illness. At the time of its formation MHSA was a unique organization. It grew to become a statewide organisation with participating organisations in the ACT, Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Western Plains, The Hunter Valley, Southern Highlands, the North Coast and Sydney metro area.
MHSA was created to offer people with mental illness access to sport and recreational opportunities. A need for the MHSA arose as many people with mental illness lacked the confidence and skill to feel comfortable joining mainstream sport. Following the establishment of the MHSA it was found that those participating gained self-confidence, discipline, enthusiasm and energy. This then began to be reflected in other areas of their life, for example people gained the confidence to begin job searching. Some of the current Association participants have gone on to compete in open competitions in their chosen sport.
There is a large body of evidence showing that physical/sporting activities are of benefit to people with mental illness on many levels, including physical health, mental health, improved social and interpersonal skills and general enjoyment and quality of life.
The MHSA has been offering cricket, table tennis, lawn bowls, ten pin bowling, volleyball, indoor soccer, softball and tennis as sporting options. These will continue and new sports will be added.
The establishment of the Network is being guided by a Steering Committee, with some of the Association executives staying on the Committee. The Network is being established as an umbrella body to enable all mental health agencies in NSW to join in and involve their members in sporting and physical health activities. There will be three levels of membership:
- Foundation members – organizations that support the establishment of the Network;
- Program members – mental health recovery programs, e.g. D2DL, HASI, PHaMs, clubhouse etc;
- Individual members – people who wish to join and participate as individuals.
Through the website members will have access to a wealth of information on events, reports on competitions, membership etc. Members will have access to sporting rules, guidelines on competitions, event management, sponsorship, training, etc. There will be an e-newsletter, and as the site develops, forums, research, news, local activities, etc.
The Network has the support of the Department of Sport and Recreation and will be developing partnerships with sporting bodies, local councils, NSW Health and many others in the future.