Joe Lynskey

Pitching sport as a tool to help young people open up about mental health

Sport has always played a pivotal part in Edge Hill student Joe Lynskey’s life, a passion which he now brings to his role as a Tackling the Blues Support Mentor.

Joe, 20, is currently in his third and final year studying Sports Management at the University and plans to embark on a career as a sports coach when he graduates this summer.

Before his time at Edge Hill draws to a close, Joe is hoping to leave a lasting impact on future generations by helping children and young people across the North West to use sport as a tool to open up about their mental health.

Joe, from Kirkby in Liverpool, said:

“Physical activity can provide endless benefits for your mental health at any age. Research continues to show that exercise and team building activities that involve sport can help to improve mood, reduce stress and better self-esteem.

“In the current climate it’s never been more important for young people to have the tools and support to help them understand their emotions and look after their mental health, which is why programmes like Tackling the Blues are so important.”

Tackling the Blues is Edge Hill’s mental health literacy programme for schools in partnership with Everton in the Community and Tate Liverpool. The sport, physical activity, arts and education-based programme supports children and young people aged six to 16 years who are experiencing, or at risk of developing, mental illness.

As a Support Mentor, Joe has drawn on his previous experience as a trainee sports coach to encourage children and young people talk about their mental health with others. He added:

“Sport is one of my passions, but I understand that it isn’t for everyone. One of the most popular team games we practice is a fun, gentle exercise that encourages each child to get involved and talk about a time when they have experienced a certain emotion, how it made them feel and how they coped with it.

“We find that sport can act as the connector to help children open up and understand that everyone feels the same emotions at one time or another, and hopefully they can learn from each other.”

Having joined the programme in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe reflected on the impact that the national lockdown has had on people’s mental health, particularly for young people. He said:

“Personally, I’ve noticed that the pandemic has had an impact on my anxiety levels and thankfully, I have access to the tools as an adult to learn how to cope. But children don’t always have that support network or know how to articulate their feelings.

“The pandemic has been an ever-changing situation for children. They’ve been in between school, home learning and national lockdowns at a time in their lives when they really need is a sense of routine and normality. If I can do anything to help even one young person feel better, I will.”