General Assembly of the European Network of Active Living for Mental Health (ENALMH)

 "More members, more initiatives"


The beautiful city of Prague hosted the annual General Assembly of the Network held on Friday, May 30th, 2019 with significant results:

With the admission of 5 new members within just seven months of the previous October 2018 meeting, the number of the full members increased to 19 (36%) with presence in 11 countries.

So, they have welcomed the following new members in alphabetical order:

  • Association for Research on Mental and Physical Health of the Elderly (ARISMA), IT
  • FAINARETI Non-Profit Organization, GR
  • School of Health, Polytechnic of Porto, PT
  • Society of Psychosocial Research and Intervention – S.P.R.I., GR
  • The University of Thessaly, School of Physical Education, Sport and Nutrition, GR

During the first part of the works of the GA a review of the initiatives undertaken so far and the partnerships developed has been done.  Within the wider range of cooperation are included 8 transnational organizations (3 international and 4 European networks and one European Think Tank), 15 universities and more than 40 Mental Health and Sport organizations active in 17 countries. The successful outcome of the initiatives will mark a new day for the link of Sport and Physical Exercise to Mental Health aiming at the promotion of the Active Living Movement for Positive Mental Health and Well-Being.

Furthermore, it was planned the promotion of the network in important international fora and decisions have been taken to develop new initiatives for the Action Plan 2019 - 2020 aiming at the full coverage of the EU Member States and creating productive links with the public and private sectors.


The EUROPEAN VOLUNTEER EVENTS for THERAPY through SPORTS – EVENTS Project - aims to develop strong institutional procedures for the specific contribution of sport and physical exercise to the prevention, the therapy in the field of mental health and the rehabilitation of mental health service users at European level within the overall Active Living context.

The project is the practical reflection of the vision of a major European institutional link between the fields of Sport and Mental Health: State Sports Authorities, Federations and Associations, private bodies in the sports sector, National Health Systems, Educational / Research Institutions, Local Government, Private Institutions and Civil Society meet up and join their forces in a movement that promotes an active living, the idea that sport is for everyone, that sport fosters our soul.



The 1st European Sport & Physical Exercise Event for Mental Health is the culmination of the new strategy that highlights the independent and specialized approach of Physical Exercise and Sports as a significant and effective factor for a holistic approach in the field of Mental Health.

34 organizations and 250 individuals who practice sports from 14 countries have already support with their participation the 1st European Sport & Physical Exercise Event for Mental Health, which is co-funded by the European Commission in the framework of Erasmus+ Sport Program, will be held will be held in Athens, Greece, on 7,8 & 9 September 2018. The 1st European Sport & Physical Exercise Event for Mental Health - the milestone of the EVENTS project actions – was set up under the Patronage of the European Parliament President. A reward that provides this particular initiative with a moral acclaim.

See here the website and learn more about EVENTS Project


Proposal on the ERASMUS+/ SPORT Call for Collaborative Partnerships

The proposal “2nd European Sport & Physical Exercise Event for Mental Health” (ESPEEMH) aims to continue the development of strong institutional procedures for the specific contribution of sports and physical exercise to the prevention, therapy and rehabilitation of mental health service users at European level.

The high importance of the actual connection between the fields of Sports / PE & MH has been provided by the developing initiative of Active Living for MH which came to life through the MENS and EVENTS projects, funded within the Sport ERASMUS+ calls of 2016 & 2017, the establishment of the ENALMH Network and the “lifeislikeabike” awareness campaign.

The proposal aims at the organization of the 2nd ESPEEMH, though the 1st is going to be implemented on September 2018 within the “EVENTS” project, as one step ahead towards the institutional adaptation of the European Sport Event for MH

Within this frame, the objectives of the project are:

- the implementation of a 3-days Sport Event in Greece where 300 participants will be persons with or without mental disorders

- the organization of a Conference for the awareness raising on stigma, the dissemination of the project results and the development of a sustainability strategy for the permanent realization of the European Event in annual basis.

The innovative aspects of the 2nd European Event are:

- the direct participation of European networks of the wider field of MH in order to operate as multipliers of the Event idea and mission

- the realization of the event in the middle of the city in order to spread the message of active living as an everyday life component and not as an extraordinary activity.

- The focus on prevention for the 3rd day activities involving the children population.

Coordinator of the proposal is the Greek organization Society of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health. Sending organizations are representing at the time of submission 14 countries: GR, IT, UK, SP, TR, LI, HR, PT, IE, BU, CZ, NL, BE, RO

Executive summar

The survey was attended by the twelve countries that form the partners of the MENS Project. Target groups were mental health organizations, sports organizations, the general population and mental health patients. The aim of the survey was to explore the recognition over the contribution of physical exercise to mental health.

*Mental Health Organizations

The survey involved a total of 458 representatives of mental health organizations. 56% of the sample was female and 44% male. Regarding specialty, 12.7% were psychiatrists, 22.8% psychologists and 30.6% social workers.

84.46% of the sample stated they use physical exercise as a means of improving mental health. However, there are major differences between the four regions as the Central European countries show a significantly lower rate. In cases where physical exercise is not used, the most important reason is the patient's lack of will. A small percentage (7.8%) argued that physical exercise does not help, according to the literature.

Team program, freestyle exercise and team sport are the forms of exercise suggested by the majority of the sample. At the same time, experts recommend physical exercise 1-2 times a week (46%).

An important indication of the contribution of physical exercise to mental health is the fact that experts see changes in the psychological state for some hours after the end of the exercise (65%).

Indicative of the above conclusion is the fact that 88% of the sample agrees that the exercise assists in the therapeutic treatment of mental disorders. 42% of the sample estimates that it helps a lot and 41% that helps moderately.

90% of the sample declares positive to include exercise in the treatment process. Western Europe countries had significantly lower percentage (77%). Only 31.5% of mental health organizations have facilities, or the possibility of using facilities, the time, and the staff that could implement such an intervention though. Significant infrastructure shortfalls are observed in eastern European countries.

Regarding the effect of physical exercise, experts estimate it contributes in increasing of activation, improvement of self-esteem, improvement of self-confidence and decreasing of anxiety. At the same time they recognize the contribution to reducing the risk of CVDs and body fat.

The survey involved a total of 1473 people, of whom 63.5% were women and 36.4% were men. The mean age of the sample was 35.7 years.

The overwhelming majority of the sample (96.8%) agrees that participation in sport - exercise programs is beneficial for mental health. Light physical activity and team sport are the most beneficial according to the majority’s opinion. At the same time, they acknowledge that physical exercise primarily affects the Improvement of physical condition and the promotion of physical health.

73.7% of the sample stated they exercise. On a daily basis exercise 16.8% of the sample while 46% exercises are 1 to 3 times a week. Regarding the type of exercise, muscle strengthening is the most popular type (28.6%) according to the respondents, followed by group exercise (16.9%).

At the same time, respondents estimate that physical activity has a positive effect on their psychological condition. Specifically, 41% agree and 43% strongly agree.

In the case of respondents who do not exercise, the shortage of time is the most important factor (55%) followed by the lack of mood (21.4%). However, in this case, 85% of those who do not exercise agree that the exercise would be positive to their psychological condition.

71% of the sample considers that mental patients are stigmatized. At the same time they consider that participation in sports events could address the social stigma problem. Team program, freestyle exercise and team sport would be the most appropriate way according to their opinion.

*Sport Organizations

The survey involved a total of 257 sports organization representatives, of which 52% were men and 48% women. The average age was 38 years and the average work experience was 15.2 years.

98% agree that participation in sports and exercise activities is beneficial to mental health. The main benefits include personal improvement (66%), promotion of sociability (63.8%), promotion of communication (48) and decrease of social exclusion (41%).

Representatives of sports organizations notice major changes in the psychological condition either during or after exercise regarding   the mood state, self-confidence, activation, self-esteem and sociability.

72% of the sport organizations provide activities to the general population linking mental health and physical activity. Where this is not the case, 65% declare willing to do so in the future. At the same time, 86% consider that physical activity contributes sufficiently or greatly to psychological condition.

A significant percentage of the sample (48%) had previously collaborated with mental health organizations while 60% of non-cooperated organizations  state  their willingness to cooperate in the future.

According to the sport organization’s view, community programs / events and Special events / promotions are the most effective ways to inform and motivate the public.

*Mental Health Users

The survey involved 468 mental health users, of whom 51% were men and 49% women.

60.8% of the sample participates in sport activities. In the case of non-participation, the lack of mood and time are the most important factors.

Regarding the frequency of physical exercise, on a daily basis exercises the 25.4% while 41% is exercises 2-3 times a week. Organized program in the gym selects 26% of the sample followed by the individual exercise at home 16%.

Significant improvement in liveliness, well-being and self-confidence notice the respondents either during or after physical activity. The overwhelming majority of the sample agrees that exercise has a positive effect on their psychological condition.

40% of the sample prefers to exercise with others while 20.7% alone. 38% stated that there is no difference. At the same time, 75% would like to include physical activity as part of their therapeutic program.

Proposal on the ERASMUS+/ SPORT Call for Collaborative Partnerships

The proposed project  A.S.A.L aims to train professionals from the field of Sports Science and Physical Activity to develop skills needed in order to be able to engage in structures that target population with mental health illnesses.

The focus will be to train and develop the required skills in these professionals in order to make them eligible to engage and work with this specific target group and provide high quality services to promote and assist the therapeutic process.

This will be accomplished by accumulating modules focusing on technical, behavioural and practical aspects. Additionally, the project aims to collect some innovative practices that are currently used in Europe and train the participants on these specific practices utilizing their developers as educators when, and if possible.

The training course will be consisted from a 6 month vocational training period divided into two 3-month terms and a 3-month internship period which will take place either in some of the partners’ structures or other Mental Health institutions.

5 participatory multiplier events and the final Project Conference will disseminate the project results


The connection of Mental Health

                                        with Sport & Physical Activities


 The motive

We all feel euphoria and more relaxed after a sport or physical activity. But could sport and physical activity have benefits on our mental health; Many official research supports the dynamics that an active living has on a balanced life. Although, the connection between the fields of Mental Health and Sport & Physical Exercise is not entirely represented by the already established sports procedures that refer either to physical or to intellectual disabilities. The understanding of this necessity can come only as a result of an EU wide Awareness Campaign which is the tool to reform well established perceptions and create a new inspired mentality.

MENS Project

MENS Project aims to develop strong institutional procedures for the specific contribution of sports and physical activity to the prevention, therapy and rehabilitation of the Mentally Ill, throughout Europe. The main objectives of the Project are:

*The development of 12 Policy papers regarding the effective use of sports and physical activities in the treat of mental illness

*The establishment of the European Network of Active Living for Mental Health (ENALMH)

*The public awareness on the necessity of a new specific approach on the conjunction of Sport with Mental Health through a European Awareness Campaign.


The research

A specifically designed research - 25/9/2017 until 30/11/2017 - took place in 12 European Countries (Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Croatia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Turkey, UK, Belgium, Czech Republic, Portugal) and had been carried out by all 17 partners of the MENS Project. A fundamental outcome of this initiative was the data collection on the current situation throughout organizations and individuals across European countries by gathering invaluable information regarding sports/physical recreational activities and their contribution in the context of mental health.


 The “Life is like a bike” campaign

Surveys and real life attest that sport and physical exercise has a specific contribution to the prevention, therapy and rehabilitation regarding mental health. An encouraging campaign for those who want it but have not yet dared to make the decision and at the same time a stirring campaign for the existing initiatives.

A campaign that will trigger the development of an active living, of a holistic approach that tends to become the prevailing perception for European Union's policies in the Mental Health field.

Watch here the campaign video

Proposal on the ERASMUS+/ SPORT Call for Collaborative Partnerships

"I.P.A.L.M.H" is an 18 month project proposal to be implemented in 6 European Countries (Greece, Finland, Ireland, Czech Republic, Italy and Belgium) and will also be supported by the partnering European Network for Active Living for Mental Health and its founding members.
This proposal is a part of an overall, well developed strategy to utilize Physical Exercise and Sport activities in the field of Mental Health under the umbrella of the title “active living for mental health”.

The aim of this Interactive Platform is to identify, develop, promote and share Sport and Physical Activity structured practices and all relevant information such as studies, policies, campaigns etc., and create a database that will be available to all professionals working with Mental health services users (both Sport and Physical education specialists and Mental Health specialist), but also to all interest parties and individuals.

Additionally, the platform aims to work as a Digital Library and also a Forum for discussion among competent authorities, organizations and professionals on the implementation of structured practices and development of new Sport practices, enhancing thus the networking among the stakeholders. But within the overall Interactive Platform concept not only static functions are foreseen. An innovative dynamic application, the Practices’ Generator Tool will be developed in order to enhance the creation of new sport and physical exercise practices for Mental Health.

KSDEO EDRA, GR – Coordinator
Finnish Association for Mental Health, FI
COOS Marche, IT
First Fortnight, IE
FOKUS – Praha, CZ
ENALMH Network, BE