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Volleyball gets serious about mental health and wellbeing

Volleyball WA has embraced partnerships and technology in an effort to ensure it is looking after the mental health and wellbeing of its members.

Chief Executive Officer Robyn Kuhl said partnerships are an important aspect to promoting mental health and wellbeing in sport.

“We have always been an organisation that has been interested in the whole person and it is not just about playing sport,” Ms Kuhl said.

“Sport and recreation is a mechanism that people can use to be part of society, feel less isolated, meet new friends.”

In March 2019, Volleyball WA created a Mental Health Charter which aims to create an engaged workforce that is mentally and physically safe and healthy.

“We spent six months collectively developing the mental health charter but what we wanted to do was make sure it just wasn’t a piece of paper that had been written on, it was something that we could do,” Ms Kuhl said.

“COVID in a back to front strange way helped because people are actually taking that step back and going: ‘we actually need to start talking about mental health and wellbeing and what does that look like’.

“For me, it has been about some of the actions we have tried to take. One of the real strengths of sport and recreation is the place we can take in the space of mental wellbeing and helping people whatever their problem may be.”

Volleyball WA’s ongoing partnership with the Western Australian Association for Mental Health has helped to promote the ways sport can help contribute to good mental health.

“The partnership with the Western Australian Association for Mental Health came about because we recognised that we are not mental health experts and we wanted some help, assistance and guidance in what could be provided to assist us with our members and participants,” she said.

The first step in that partnership was the development of the Fortix Corporate Cup which will once again be held in Mental Health Week to promote the importance of physical activity to mental health and wellbeing at work.

“We have extended that by adding to our portfolio things like Harmony Cup and R U OK Day discussions,” Ms Kuhl said.

“Particularly during COVID, we instigated a whole digital platform called “Saturday Sesh” but that was about providing a mechanism to communicate for people who are sitting at home.

“Some of it was volleyball, how many times can you keep the ball in the air, all the way through to having some ambassadors talk about mental health. Healthway helped us with a session about mental health and drinking too much alcohol in COVID lockdown.”

Volleyball also provided a range of online courses which helped to engage with members and once the lockdown ended allowed volleyball to get restarted within five weeks.

To assist with communicating with members while in lockdown, Volleyball WA formed a partnership with iyarn.

The partnership saw the sport use the iyarn app to expand its commitment to championing mental health and providing a tool to facilitate the mental health conversation.

“We saw them as someone who could help us start a conversation with our people,” she said.

“The most simplistic form of what they do is they have a wheel that you can just go in and you can mark just how am I feeling today. The concept is then have a yarn, a conversation with you mates, your friends, your group, your club and just see how you are feeling.

“We would like to develop more with the iyarn conversation and we have been doing some work with some piloting about what that might look like with our leadership panel group and a couple of our clubs.

Ms Kuhl said Volleyball’s next strategic plan would build on the work already down in the mental health and wellbeing space and clearly shows it is serious about what it does in this area.

“We would like to be able to do more than what we currently do and better. If we are going to be serious about what we are saying here it just can’t be words,” she said.

“For us the new strategic planning process is really important. We’ve signed off on the upper level, it’s now about what are the bits that sit underneath this that are going to make this work. We’ve made sure it has been bedded into our strategic plan so it is something that not only want to do but we have to do.”

This week during Mental Health Week, Volleyball WA will host the Fortix Corporate Cup on Friday 15 October at the Inner City Beach Courts.

For more information about iyarn, visit https://iyarn.com/.


By. Steve Glover

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