Mental Health Awareness Week: Jan’s key role at World Indoors

Tuesday 14th May 2024

Jan Gammage with members of the World Indoors group and joined by Robert Nesbitt of SAMH (second from left at back)

scottishathletics and SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health) are now into the eighth year of partnership.

During that period our work together has evolved significantly. SAMH’s influence across the sporting sector in Scotland continues to grow and make an impact.

Check out some of that success here via our scottishathletics and SAMH impact document.

Earlier this year, SAMH was announced as the official charity partner of the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow.

SAMH provided all event staff and volunteers with mental health and wellbeing training and resources to contribute towards the delivery of a mentally healthy event.

scottishathletics official, Jan Gammage, was one of 400 volunteers at the Championships and took on the additional responsibility of being a ‘Mental Health Champion‘ during the event.

Firstly, how was your experience volunteering at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow?

My volunteering experience was as part of the training team based at Scotstoun Stadium. Our team included volunteers, a technical official, event staff, security staff, and facility staff.

Our job was to support the athletes and coaches during their training. Observing athletes at such a high level during their training sessions was fascinating to watch. The environment was informal and friendly.

There were some challenges due to it being a shared facility with Glasgow Warriors Rugby, however good communication helped to address any concerns.

Prior to our training sessions finishing young athletes from VP-Glasgow arrived at Scotstoun. This was incredibly inspirational for these young athletes to watch world class athletes training – what an experience for them.

You had a really important role at the Championships as a Mental Health Champion, tell us more about what that entailed?

I was involved early on in the selection process for the volunteers as a Volunteer Ambassador. During the selection process everyone had a presentation from Scottish Action for Mental Health (SAMH).

I facilitated a table at these sessions and the discussion as part of the presentation was incredibly open and honest. There was no pressure to contribute. The aim of these sessions was to raise awareness of mental health and the role this has to play within sport. The recognition that we must help to raise awareness of mental health was evident.

Following on from this there were further sessions for those who identified that they would like to embrace the role of Wellbeing Champions.

These sessions looked further into mental health, gave us strategies to help others, and signposting resources to further support those that required it.

Personally I had several occasions where situations arose when the information I had received hopefully helped me deal with it appropriately.

As a Wellbeing Champion we all wore SAMH lanyards to identify us. At Scotstoun having finished lunch a lady approached two of us wearing lanyards and asked if we worked for SAMH.

She opened up about her concerns – we weren’t there to solve her concerns but we listened and managed to signpost her for the help she was requesting.

She didn’t know about the World Indoors being on – it was a chance encounter which was very rewarding.

What learning did you take from your experience at the Championships that you think can help you and other officials in athletics in Scotland?

This volunteering experience was extremely enjoyable for me.

I really felt that I had been given the appropriate information to make this experience so successful. The involvement of SAMH from the start of this process right through to our post event debriefing, in my mind, enhanced this process.

I learned that if we are all more aware of those around us, and by acting more sensitively, this can help us create a more comfortable volunteering experience for everyone involved.

The important relationship between mental health and physical activity is now widely recognised and more openly discussed.

How do you think Scottish Athletics and partners can support officials and other volunteers in the sport to look after their mental health and wellbeing?

When we arrive at an event we are not aware of what other people are going through. Many will have stresses due to a variety of things, for example – work concerns, relationship difficulties, or caring responsibilities. We don’t need to know any details but should always treat each other with kindness and respect.

The effect of SAMH being involved with the volunteers has been incredibly beneficial.

By partnering with SAMH it would be a really positive step forward to implement both some training (possibly at the SA Officials Conference) and a resource with basic tips, and some signposting on the SA website.

There are always a lot of strong characters at athletics events and it is so important that everyone is made to feel welcome and a valuable member of the team.

Shona Macolm and Margaret Brown at the World Indoors (photo by Sue Gyford)

Jan is a Level 2 Field Official who joined scottishathletics after being one of the volunteers at the Glasgow 2019 European Championships. She continues to volunteer in other sports as well as athletics.

Following the Championships, scottishathletics and SAMH are working together to put a programme of support and resources in place for officials, further extending the work we are doing across the sport.

Some of the cohort of Scottish Athletics Officials at the World Indoors (photo by Bobby Gavin)



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