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Sports can protect mental health: report

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver



Community support was the most important factor in addressing the mental health of youth in B.C. for 23-year-old Mitchell Mammel.

He was one of a group of youths working with McCreary Centre Society who prepared a report, released Monday, that looked into topics such as who youth go to for help when they feel vulnerable.

“Youth who had a supportive adult in their life, we found it was beneficial for the general health outcomes ... it didn’t have to be a parent. There were social network benefits, the number of close friends that youth had. If youth had close friends, it was found as a protective factor,” Mammel said.

“Or being in a positive social environment for certain youth, we looked at sports, we found that was protective for a large amount of youth.”

According to the report, those teens who had the support of at least one adult in their lives generally fared better and were happier.

The report found young people in B.C. are most likely to seek out help among friends — the preferred choice for about three quarters of teens.

Family members were a close second, and teachers made up a clear third choice.

Interestingly, however, it was teen who sought help from their sports coaches who reported having the best mental health — even among those who didn’t think the coaches were much help.

“We want to be able to turn the research over to people working directly with youth ... in what ways can we give youth the opportunities to get active in social groups they enjoy?” Mammel said.

“The advantage that can be had is you have youth researching youth issues, there can be unique insights or questions that youth have that may not (otherwise) come up.”