World Mental Health Day – ‘Box in Mind’

October 23, 2018 | by Matt Halfpenny


On World Mental Health Day England Boxing is pleased to introduce ‘Box In Mind’, an initiative to address the issue of mental health in boxing.

Central to the initiative will be the Box In Mind workshop, developed in partnership with the mental health charity, Mind. The workshop will raise awareness of mental health within boxing, with the aim of reducing the stigma associated with mental health, and encouraging people within the sport to feel able to open up and get help if they are struggling.

There are a number of ways in which boxing can have a positive impact on mental health:

  • boxing clubs are based in the heart of many marginalised communities and are in a unique position to be able to engage people that may not be connected with mental health services
  •  boxing offers a full-body workout that is ideal for releasing stress and increasing endorphins, and it was consistently identified as one of the most popular sports in Mind’s Get Set to Go sport and physical activity programme
  •  boxing clubs have a strong community spirit, and coaches are in a position to be able to identify when people may be struggling and encourage them to seek help
  •  boxing sessions can offer some order to what can otherwise be a dis-ordered week for people with mental health problems


England Boxing’s Matthew Williams, who is leading Box In Mind, explained,

“One in four adults will experience a mental health problem in any given year. There is an increasing awareness of mental health within society but there is still a great deal of stigma, and this can prevent people from seeking help when they are struggling. This can be amplified in the tough, competitive environment of boxing.”

Stephanie Ware, co-designer for Box In Mind, added,

“As a boxing coach myself and former competitive amateur boxer, I am certain that this workshop will encourage boxing coaches and clubs to implement the small, practical changes that could help to support people experiencing mental health problems. It has been developed with input from people within the sport with lived experiences of mental health problems, and the content is built around real boxing experiences.”

Former three weight world champion Duke McKenzie MBE was involved in the development of the Box In Mind workshop. Duke, now an ambassador for Mind, commented,

“In all levels of the sport you are boxing with your whole heart, mind, body and soul. You need a support network around you, you can’t manage your emotions on your own. Boxers need help with their mental health at some point. The highs and lows of boxing run through the sport at all levels, from the amateurs to the top professionals. Also, people may be coming into boxing to help alleviate problems they are facing in their lives. I’d especially recommend this workshop to coaches. I think if you really get to know the people you’re training you’ll realise that you need to attend this course.”

Hayley Jarvis, Mind’s Head of Physical Activity, supports the initiative,

“We think that ‘Box in Mind’ is a very positive initiative. It’s fantastic that England Boxing and the boxing community really wants to increase its awareness of mental health and, ultimately, to make itself more accessible to people with mental health problems.

“We know from our own Get Set to Go programme the real benefits of sport and physical activity on mental health. People with mental health problems, however, still face significant barriers to being active, with our research suggesting that almost 70 per cent feel that their mental health makes taking part in physical activity too difficult.

“Recommendations from the first phase of Get Set to Go also suggested that the sports sector build stronger relationships with local mental health providers, provide more training for staff around mental health awareness to reduce stigma, create more welcoming group environments particularly for first time attendees, involve family and friends, and give really clear communication to encourage attendance.”

Delivery of the workshop will begin in November, and the work will not stop there.

“Box In Mind will help us to normalise conversations around mental health within the sport, and the workshop is just the start,” says Matthew.

“By engaging the boxing community through the workshop, we anticipate that more clubs will use boxing as a positive way to address mental health, both within their clubs and their wider local communities. There are already a number of excellent projects that are doing this, including Empire Fighting Chance in Bristol, Pat Benson’s Mind-Fit in Birmingham, and the Connect Project, a partnership between In Your Corner and London Community Boxing.

“Boxing has the potential to have a real positive impact on the nation’s mental health. England Boxing, under the Box In Mind banner, look forward to leading the sport’s efforts to raise awareness, and to making a real difference to boxers, coaches, and officials within the sport.”

The Box In Mind workshop is for anybody that has an interest in mental health in boxing. Please contact Matthew Williams at England Boxing to register your interest in attending a workshop: / 07515 333032.



We’re Mind, the mental health charity for England and Wales. We believe no one should have to face a mental health problem alone. We provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. We have a federated network of around 130 local Minds across England and Wales. Our Get Set to Go programme aimed to improve the lives of 75,000 people with mental health problems through access to sport in their communities, with support from Sport England and the National Lottery.

We work to remove the barriers that people living with mental health problems can face when wanting to take up a sport. We aim to increase and sustain their independent participation in mainstream sports as part of a healthy lifestyle.


For more information on Mind’s sport and physical activity work please visit