Our children are in a mental health crisis. We need to take action now.

Together with other organisations across the running sector, we’re calling on the leaders of our biggest political parties, to unlock the potential of sport and physical activity to play a more meaningful role in tackling the UK’s growing mental health epidemic.

We’re failing too many of our children, who leave school unfit, inactive and dealing with poor mental health on an unprecedented scale.

The number of children and young people in mental health crisis reached record levels this year. In the year to March 2023 there were 21,555 urgent referrals to mental health crisis teams, up 46% on 2022, according to analysis of NHS data by the charity Young Minds.

All of us involved in sport and physical activity, from grassroots community clubs to the UK’s biggest mass participation running events, have seen the profound and positive effect physical activity can have on mental health and wellbeing in children and adults.

As a country, our long-term health and wellbeing strategy needs to prioritise prevention.

As a sector, we’re ready to help. We work to deliver solutions, facilitating activity outreach programmes in schools and communities, rolling out junior and adult Parkruns across the nation, staging world-leading events that inspire people of all ages and abilities to get active and improve their mental and physical health and generating £85bn every year in economic, social and health uplift.

But we could do so much more. Our sector needs more ambition from leaders to work with us, to give our young people the best chance in life by striving to become the most active nation in Europe.

Government - both now and in the future – must therefore demonstrate boldness and bravery and commit to maximising the transformative power of our sector.

We’re calling on all party leaders to put physical and health literacy at the heart of the future school curriculum, giving all children and young people access to high-quality PE, co-curricular activity, and community provision to truly leverage the unique position of schools to transform every childhood through physical activity.

Yours sincerely

Matt Newman

CEO at Run 4 Wales