Sport in Mind is the brainchild of Neil Harris and its origins can be traced to the simple act of trying to help a childhood friend, who had become mentally unwell. In 2009, Neil devised a physical activity programme to help aid his friend Jamie’s recovery. Little did he realise this would inspire a charity which would go on to help thousands of people with mental health problems.

Back in 2009, Jamie was in a terrible place, a place he'd never been before in his life. He was depressed, anxious about going outside, about socialising, about life. He became isolated and disconnected from the world. Although Jamie was really struggling mentally, he was reluctant to engage with traditional mental health services... like a lot of people.

Despite Jamie not being at all keen on sport or physical activity, Neil knew the positive impact being active can have on mental health and decided to design a physical activity programme to help his friend's recovery.

Jamie was initially reluctant to engage, but with patient encouragement Neil persuaded him to take part in some gentle physical activity. A 1 minute walk to start... just to help his friend out of the house. Followed by a 2 minute walk the next day, which went that little bit further away from the 'safety' of his home. Then a 3 minute walk. It was all about taking small, gradual steps. Steps that were achievable, steps that helped break down barriers that would grow Jamie's confidence.

After 4 weeks Jamie began to see improvements in his health and wellbeing - small, steady improvements.  For the next 6 months, Neil worked closely with Jamie, utilising his physical activity programme and the results were staggering. Within 9 months, Jamie’s symptoms had significantly reduced, he was showing improved levels of self-esteem and had returned to full-time employment.

10 years on and Jamie continues to manage his mental health by engaging in sport and physical activity on a regular basis. He has been relapse free for 10 years and is enjoying life!

Driven by the success the programme had on Jamie's recovery, Neil decided in 2010 to set up Sport in Mind with the aim of providing accessible sport and physical activity opportunities to help improve the lives of people experiencing mental health problems in the town of Reading, Berkshire. Since then the charity has delivered thousands of sessions across the South of England and supported the recovery of over 12,500 people.

Sport in Mind's story in Neil's own words:

"Sport in Mind is a really simple concept, something that many of us do every single week - taking part in sport and physical activity to help our mental health. With just a little helping hand, my friend Jamie was able to use physical activity to help improve his mental health. Many of us experience stress and mental health problems each year, but no matter who you are finding a sport or physical activity that you enjoy really can have a hugely positive impact on your mental health.  People often praise what I've done with Sport in Mind, but the reality is the inspirational figures aren’t people like me – they're the people like Jamie who push themselves to get involved in physical activity when they’re not feeling at their best. Sport in Mind’s aim is simple - to give people experiencing mental health problems that little helping hand on their journey to recovery by offering them the opportunity to get active in a fun, safe and supportive environment. Together we can do amazing things!”

Want to read more about Sport in Mind? Check out our 'Who are We' section HERE